Judges in the Netherlands began hearing evidence Tuesday against three Russian suspects and a Ukrainian accused of shooting down a Malaysia passenger plane over a pro-Russian separatist area in eastern Ukraine in 2014, reports said.

Judges want victims' relatives to have "clarity" about the tragedy. The trial started in March last year but has until now dealt with legal arguments only.

The trial is being held in a high-security location near Schiphol airport in the Netherlands - mainly as a result of the significant number of Dutch citizens killed in the incident.

The legal dispute was primarily about the admissibility of evidence in the disaster in which all crew and 298 passengers - including 196 Dutch citizens - on the Boeing 777 died.

The plane was on its way to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia from Amsterdam. It was shot down as it flew over a part of eastern Ukraine then under the control of pro-Russian rebels.

According to international investigators, a Russia-made surface-to-air missile shot the plane down, Reuters reported.

Victims' relatives said they expected testimony to bring up painful memories but were grateful for a chance to hear, at last, what had happened to Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

"It's a very difficult day for us. You know, it's now the first day of the prosecution," Evert van Zijtveld, whose daughter Frederique and son Robert were among those killed.

"Up until now no one has come forward and said they're even partially responsible for the crash of MH17," Channel News Asia quoted presiding judge Hendrik Steenhuis as telling the court.

Meanwhile, Kremlin representative Dmitry Peskov said it wasn't part of the investigation and couldn't influence what happened. Russia is not "part of a mechanism to investigate the incident," Peskov said in remarks quoted by Urdupoint News.

The defense and prosecution will present their cases between now and July 9.