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First Flight MH17 victims arrive in the Netherlands

The first bodies of victims from Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 – shot down over Ukraine last week – have arrived in the Netherlands.

In other overnight developments:

  • Data from the flight and cockpit-voice recorders is being downloaded in England
  • Pro-Russian separatists suspected in shooting down Flight MH17 have shot down two more Ukrainian fighter jets

Hundreds gathered and applauded as hearses carrying 40 bodies were taken to Hilversum Barracks for identification after landing at Eindhoven air force base in the Netherlands.

A Dutch air force C-130 Hercules and a larger Australian air force C-17 flew the bodies from Ukraine. Another 74 bodies are expected to be transported later today.

Family members of the victims, the Dutch king and queen, the Dutch prime minister and dignitaries from countries that lost citizens were present when the first two planes arrived.

Across the Netherlands, church bells rang and the nation held a minute's silence just after the landings.

The Netherlands lost 193 nationals in the crash of Flight MH17 and is leading the forensics efforts and the overall investigation into the cause of the disaster.

In total, 298 people from 10 nations were aboard the flight traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down. There were no survivors.

'Black boxes' analysed
Data from the two “black boxes” of the Boeing 777-200 is being downloaded and analysed by the British Air Accidents Investigation Branch at Farnborough, England.

The devices store data from the aircraft and record conversations in the cockpit.

"The Cockpit Voice Recorder data was successfully downloaded and contained valid data from the flight," the Dutch Air Safety Board said. The device was damaged, though the critical memory module was intact with no evidence it was tampered with, it said

Two fighter jets downed
Pro-Russian separatists have shot down two more Ukrainian jet fighters not far from the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash site.

Ukrainian authorities say they believe the missiles came from Russian territory.

US authorities say Flight 17 was brought down in a missile strike fire from a sophisticated Buk missile system likely provided by Russia that was then smuggled back across the porous border. Russia has routinely denied aiding the insurgency.

Ukrainian government forces have stepped up their offensive against the rebels in the eastern part of the country.

While Kiev says it has made significant advances against the rebels in recent days, it still faces considerable challenges in overcoming the heavily armed insurgents.

Ukraine has nearly halved the separatist-held territory in the past five weeks but the rebels have had steady success bringing down government aircraft.

In the latest incident, the two planes were flying at an altitude of about 17,000ft when they were hit.