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Rebels pass on flight recorders

July 22, 2014

Rebels in eastern Ukraine have handed over the black boxes from downed flight MH17 and released a train carrying the remains of many victims. Earlier, the UN Security Council called for an investigation into the tragedy.

Übergabe der Black Box von MH17 an malaysische Experten
Image: Reuters

A senior leader of the pro-Russian separatists turned over the two black boxes from flight MH17 to Malaysian experts on Tuesday, five days after the Boeing 777 was downed over territory controlled by the separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The handover took place in a room crowded with journalists at the headquarters of the Donetsk People's Republic. The self-proclaimed republic's prime minister, Aleksander Borodai, presided over the procedure. Both sides signed a document finalizing the handover, which was the result of a request by the Malaysians.

"I can see that the black boxes are intact, although a bit damaged. In good condition," said Colonel Mohamed Sakri, who was with the Malaysian delegation in Donetsk.

Meanwhile, rebels allowed the refrigerated train carrying the remains of most of the victims to leave the town of Torez. According to Borodai, the train has arrived in rebel-controlled Donetsk en route to its final destination of Kharkiv, which is held by the Ukrainian government.

Once in Kharkiv, the bodies are to be identified and then sent on to the Netherlands for further examination. All 298 passengers on board MH17 perished when the passenger aircraft was downed last Thursday over eastern Ukraine en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The Netherlands counts 193 of its nationals among the dead.

Security Council calls for investigation

On Monday, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling for a "full, thorough, and independent international investigation" into the tragedy. The resolution condemned the downing of MH17 and called on armed groups in eastern Ukraine to not tamper with the crash site.

"We owe it to the victims and their families to determine what happened and who was responsible," said Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who negotiated the resolution. Australia lost 28 of its citizens in the crash.

The United States and the Ukrainian government have blamed pro-Russian separatists for the tragedy, claiming that they shot down the plane with a Buk anti-aircraft missile launcher.

Kyiv has released recordings of purported phone conversations in which the separatists admit to mistakenly shooting down MH17. Washington has said the recordings are authentic.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has blamed the Ukrainian government for the tragedy. On Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry said that a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet had flown within 5 kilometers (3 miles) of MH17 before it crashed.

Lt. General Andrei Kartopolov, the chief of Russia's general staff, said that the Ukrainian warplane was armed with air-to-air rockets capable of downing the plane.

slk/lw (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)