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Work starts in Ukraine to collect wreckage of MH17

Workers in rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine began to collect debris from the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 today, four months after the plane was brought down.

The operation is being carried out under the supervision of Dutch investigators and officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The recovered fragments are to be loaded onto trains and taken to the government-controlled eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. The investigation into the cause of the crash is being conducted there and in the Netherlands.

Alexander Kostrubitsky, the head of the emergency services in the rebel-held areas of Donetsk region, said at the site that gathering debris could take around 10 days. The debris is being sawn into smaller pieces to facilitate its transportation, Kostrubitsky said.

All 298 people aboard the Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were killed when it was shot down July 17 over a rebel-held area. Charred remains of the aircraft are scattered around fields over an area of 20 square kilometres.

Efforts to conduct investigations and recovery operations have been delayed amid continued fighting between government troops and separatist fighters. A truce was agreed in September, but hostilities have raged on nonetheless.

Ukraine and the West have blamed the downing of the MH17 flight on Russia-backed separatists using a ground-to-air missile.

Russian state television has released a satellite photograph it claims shows that a Ukrainian fighter jet shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. But the US government dismissed the report as preposterous and online commentators called the photo a crude fake.

The photo released Saturday by Russia's Channel One and Rossiya TV stations purportedly shows a Ukrainian fighter plane firing an air-to-air missile in the direction of the MH17. The channels said they got the photo from a Moscow-based organization, which had received it via email from man who identified himself as an aviation expert.

Several bloggers said the photograph was a forgery, citing a cloud pattern to prove the photo dates back to 2012, and several other details that seem incongruous.