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Malaysia rules out military mission to secure MH17 crash site

Malaysia has ruled out sending a military mission to secure the site where Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was allegedly shot down in eastern Ukraine. Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said that Malaysia does not want to get involved in geopolitical conflicts.

KUALA LUMPUR: Ukraine on Thursday (Aug 7) scrapped a ceasefire around the crash site of downed Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 a day after international experts announced they were halting investigations there over continued fighting.

Ukraine's government said in a statement that the Dutch-led probe team was told that the ceasefire around the rebel-held site had been ditched until experts decide to return to resume their search for clues and remains.

Despite the increased violence there in recent days, Malaysia has ruled out sending a military mission to secure the site and ensure the safety of its team of investigators. Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said that while authorities continue to hunt for those responsible for the crash, Malaysia does not want to get involved in geopolitical conflicts.

As a sign of the importance placed on getting the remains of the Malaysian victims of MH17 back home, 10 Malaysian ministers have been tasked with ensuring the smooth repatriation of the bodies from the Netherlands. Leading the committee is Mr Hishammuddin.

"We will decide what's the best way in order to accord the highest dignity and respect to victims and their families," said Mr Hishammuddin. While the date for the return of the remains has yet to be set, Mr Hishammuddin announced that a multi-faith memorial service will be organised in honour of the dead.

But, not all family members are in favour of a grand ceremony. Some prefer to keep the process private, away from the media limelight. While ministers have promised to take into account their wishes, the Cabinet will decide next Wednesday the best way forward including the possibility of declaring a public holiday when the remains of Malaysian victims are repatriated.

Some families are hoping to have the remains, or at least the belongings of their loved ones, returned to them before Malaysia's National Day celebrations at the end of the month.

When those dates are finally set, Mr Hishammuddin said, national carrier Malaysia Airlines will fly the coffins from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, possibly in stages, while military aircraft will be on stand-by to ferry the bodies to the respective home states of the victims.

Forty-four Malaysians - including 15 crew members and two infants - were on board MH17. Nearly 70 Malaysian police officers have been sent to the crash site in eastern Ukraine to assist in the investigation.