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The remains of victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 disaster are carried from a plane during a repatriation ceremony at the Bunga Raya complex of KLIA airport in Sepang August 22, 2014REUTERS/Olivia Harris

The bodies of Malaysian victims from downed flight MH17 have been flown back home to Kuala Lumpur for a repatriation ceremony.

Grieving relatives and dignitaries watched as officials carried the coffins of the first 20 victims at the Bunga Raya complex at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on Friday morning at 10am (2am GMT).

Malaysians observed a moment of silence and wore black as national flags were flown at half-mast for the day of mourning.

All 298 passengers, including 43 Malaysians, and crew died on board the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 after it was reportedly shot down by pro-Russian rebels, a claim which they deny.

Prime Minister Najib Razak released a statement via Facebook before the ceremony, saying: "Last month, 43 Malaysian lives were taken over Eastern Ukraine.

"Today we mourn the loss of our people. Today, we begin to bring them home.

"Our thoughts and our prayers are with the families and friends of those who lost their lives. Today we stand with you, united as one".

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The remains of a victim of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 are carried during a repatriation ceremony at KLIA airport in Sepang, August 22, 2014REUTERS/Olivia Harris
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Malaysia Airlines employees react during a repatriation ceremony at the KLIA airport in Sepang, for victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, August 22, 2014REUTERS/Olivia Harris
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The relative (centre) of a victim of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 disaster prays as the plane carrying victims' remains arrives for a repatriation ceremony REUTERS/Olivia Harris
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The coffin of twenty-nine-year-old MH17 First Officer Ahmad Hakimi Hanapi is lowered during his burial in Putrajaya August 22, 2014REUTERS/Olivia Harris