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Australia remembers countrymen on downed Malaysian plane

Published 17/07/2015

Prime minister Tony Abbott and his wife Margaret prepare to lay a wreath for the Australian victims of Malaysia Airlines jet MH17 (AP)
Prime minister Tony Abbott and his wife Margaret prepare to lay a wreath for the Australian victims of Malaysia Airlines jet MH17 (AP)

Tearful relatives of Australians flying on the Malaysian jet that was shot down over eastern Ukraine gathered for a memorial service that included the unveiling of a plaque set in soil from the place where they died.

There were 38 Australian citizens and permanent residents among the 298 people on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which was heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17 last year when it was shot down, killing everyone on board.

Australian prime minister Tony Abbott unveiled a permanent memorial to the victims in the nation's capital Canberra. The memorial, which features a plaque inscribed with the names of Australians who were killed, is set in soil that a police officer brought back from Ukraine.

"He knew that the place where MH17 came to rest was sacred and that a piece of it should come back to Australia," Mr Abbott said. "It was a humane and decent thing for him to know and do. It was a contrast to the savagery that brought down the plane."

Mr Abbott and his wife Margaret then laid a wreath at the base of the plaque and dozens of family members of the victims followed with their own floral tributes to their loved ones. Some kissed the bouquets before they placed them down, while others kissed their fingers and pressed them against the plaque.

Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine have asked the United Nations Security Council to establish an international criminal tribunal to prosecute those responsible for shooting down the plane. Ukraine has blamed Russian-backed separatist rebels, while Moscow blames Ukraine.

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