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MH17 memorial unveiled on third anniversary

"Our loved ones together went on a journey on July 17, 2014, and this memorial forest symbolically unites them again," said Evert van Zijtveld, whose two teenage children died in the crash.

By
Danielle Haynes
People visit a National Monument for the victims of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 plane crash, during an opening ceremony for the memorial in Vijfhuizen, the Netherlands, on Monday. The ribbon of trees is designed by landscape architect Robbert de Koning. Photo by Frank van Beek/EPA
People visit a National Monument for the victims of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 plane crash, during an opening ceremony for the memorial in Vijfhuizen, the Netherlands, on Monday. The ribbon of trees is designed by landscape architect Robbert de Koning. Photo by Frank van Beek/EPA

July 17 (UPI) -- Family members of the 298 people who died when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crashed in Ukraine gathered Monday to unveil a memorial for the victims in the Netherlands.

More than 2,000 friends and family members, including Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima, attended the ceremony in Vijfhuizen park, near Schiphol Airport where the Boeing 777 departed July 17, 2014.

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MH17 was shot down by a Russian-made Buk missile and crashed into a field in separatist-held territory in the Donetsk region in Ukraine. All 298 passengers and crew died in the crash. The plane, which held passengers and crew of 17 different nationalities, was headed to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The memorial includes 298 trees -- one planted for each victim in the shape of a green ribbon. Surrounding the trees is a field of sunflowers that will bloom in July, the month of the crash.

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The victims' names has been engraved on a statue in the shape of an eye pointed skywards. Each of the names were read aloud during the memorial.

"Our loved ones together went on a journey on July 17, 2014, and this memorial forest symbolically unites them again," said Evert van Zijtveld, whose two teenage children died in the crash.

He said the family members "shall not give up and shall not be silenced until those who are responsible have been brought to justice."

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So far, no one was been arrested for shooting down the plane, though a Dutch-led investigation team has identified 100 people of interest. The plane was shot down amid a war between the Ukrainian government and Russian-backed separatists, which has killed more than 10,000 people.

Investigators determined the missile had been brought to Ukraine from Russia and then smuggled back to Russia after the plane crash.

Ukrainian President Pedro Poroshenko on Monday posted a tweet saying "We bow our heads before the 298 innocent victims whose heartbeats were stopped by a Russian missile three years ago."

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