Memorial world war II cemetery in the Netherlands
Memorial world war II cemetery in the NetherlandsiStock

Vandals spray-painted swastikas and slogans about the crash of flight MH17 on a British cemetery for World War II soldiers in the Netherlands, police said Friday.

The desecration of the cemetery at Mierlo, near the southern city of Eindhoven, comes as the Netherlands marks the 75th anniversary of the start of its allied liberation from the Nazis.

"We take the matter very seriously and have started an extensive investigation," police said, adding that they were probing possible further incidents of vandalism in the town.

A large swastika was daubed on a chapel at the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery, while letters were painted on several of the 664 graves at the cemetery, and a large stone cross was also defaced.

The vandals also wrote "MH17 Lie" on an outer wall of the cemetery.

The Netherlands was the country that lost the most people in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in July 2014 over part of eastern Ukraine that was held by pro-Russian separatists.

Cemetery administrator Henk ten Westenenk said it was the second time it had been targeted recently.

"The cemetery was already vandalized last weekend. We had it cleaned on Tuesday and now it is hit again," he was quoted as saying by De Telegraaf newspaper.

Britain's Prince Charles is due to visit the Netherlands later this month to mark the Battle of Arnhem, where more than 1,400 Allied soldiers died in the ill-fated plan to seize bridges in the Netherlands in mid-September 1944, which Allied commanders had hoped would give them a quick way of ending the war in Europe.

Dutch residents reacted with horror to the cemetery's defacing, news reports said.

"My heart weeps. There are young guys of 17, 18 years old buried here. They helped liberate our country," one caller told the Omroep Brabant radio and TV station.

A tweet by a local reporter showed a bunch of white roses "laid by a young man in silent protest over the defacing of the war graves."

European countries have faced a surge in racist and anti-Semitic graffiti in recent years, particularly in France, where 96 graves were daubed with swastikas at a Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, northwest of Strasbourg, in February.