SYDNEY >> Tearful relatives of several Australians who were flying on the Malaysian jetliner that was shot down over eastern Ukraine a year ago gathered for a memorial service Friday 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 17, which was heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014, when it was shot down. Everyone on board was killed.
On Friday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott unveiled a permanent memorial to the Australian 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," 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."
Abbott and his wife then lay a wreath at the base of the plaque. Dozens of family members of the victims followed, many in tears as they lay flowers alongside the wreath in honor of 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.