Grabove: Workers on Sunday began removing the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 from rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine, four months after it was shot down killing 298 passengers and crew.
Dutch experts supervised a crew from the emergency ministry of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic as they began cutting pieces of the plane's wreckage with metal saws at the crash site near the village of Grabove, an AFP reporter at the scene said.
Investigators from the Netherlands heading the probe into the disaster, in which 193 Dutch citizens died on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in July, said it could take "several days".
"Today the recovery of wreckage from flight MH17 has started. The Dutch Safety Board commissioned the recovery and transportation to the Netherlands of the wreckage as part of the investigation into the cause of the crash of flight MH17," the Dutch experts said in a statement.
The investigation team said the wreckage would be collected before being transported to the Ukrainian government-controlled city of Kharkiv and then flown to the Netherlands.
The Dutch experts eventually intend to reconstruct a section of the doomed airliner.
A rebel official said they hoped to finish the operations in the next ten days and that work would start on the largest chunks of fuselage first.
Some 15 members from the rebel recovery crew used a crane to winch wreckage onto two trucks waiting nearby to shift the evidence from the scene.
The team faces a race against time to complete the recovery effort before harsh winter conditions in the former Soviet state make it difficult to continue.
Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of supplying pro-Moscow rebels with the missile that shot down the Boeing 777 in an incident that stepped up international pressure on Moscow over its role in the conflict in Ukraine.
Moscow and the separatists have strenuously denied they were behind the downing of the plane, pointing the finger of blame instead at Kiev.
Russian President Vladimir Putin came under fresh pressure over Ukraine and the MH17 shooting-down at the G20 summit in Brisbane.
After a series of frosty exchanges with his fellow leaders, Putin left the summit ahead of schedule today, saying he needed to catch up on some sleep.
The MH17 probe team has so far managed to collect and identify the remains of 289 victims from the tragedy but recovery operations have been disrupted by fierce fighting in the area between government forces and insurgents.