CANBERRA, Australia – Australia's prime minister said on Thursday those responsible for shooting down the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine will face judgment, as his nation marked a day of mourning for the 38 Australian citizens and residents who died in the crash.
The commemorations were centered on St. Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne, capital of Victoria state where 16 of the victims lived.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott told the multi-faith service that hundreds of Australian police and military personnel had been working around the clock to retrieve human remains and belongings from the war zone where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed on July 17 with 298 people aboard.
"There will be a time to judge the guilty, but today we honor the dead and we grieve with the living," Abbott said.
Flags flew at half-mast and church bells chimed around Australia in honor of the dead.
The West has accused Russia of most likely providing Ukrainian insurgents with surface-to-air missiles that may have been used to shoot down the Boeing 777 over rebel-held territory. Prime Minister Mark Rutte of The Netherlands, whose nationals made up more than half of the victims, said Wednesday that the search involving Dutch and Australian police for victims' remains is being halted because fighting in the area of the crash site makes it too dangerous to continue.