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Pro-Russia rebels hand over MH17 black boxes

July 22, 2014 09:42 IST

Pro-Russia rebels hand over MH17 black boxes

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Pro-Russia separatists have handed over data recorders from the downed MH17 plane to Malaysian experts on Tuesday.

A senior rebel leader signed them over to the Malaysian officials at a meeting in the city of Donetsk.

"We believe these are the black boxes and these boxes will reveal the truth," said Alexander Borodai, the self-declared rebel Prime Minister in Donetsk.

The handover came hours after the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling for an international investigation into the crash in eastern Ukraine and demanded that armed groups allow investigators "full and unrestricted" access to the crash site.

The 15-nation Council adopted the Australian-drafted resolution on Mondau and condemned "in the strongest terms" the downing of MH17 on July 17 in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, which resulted in the tragic loss of 298 lives.

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Image: Malaysian expert examines a black box belonging to Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 during its handover from pro-Russian separatists, in Donetsk
Photographs: Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters

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Russia, a veto-wielding permanent member, also supported the resolution after intense negotiations resulted in some changes to the text, including terming the incident as "downing" of the airliner instead of "shooting down.

"The resolution supported efforts to establish 'a full, thorough and independent international investigation' into the incident in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines."

Expressing "grave concern" at reports of "insufficient and limited access" to the crash site, the resolution demanded that the armed groups in control of the crash site and the surrounding area "refrain from any actions that may compromise the integrity of the crash site.

"The Council members also insisted on the "dignified, respectful and professional" treatment and recovery of the bodies of the victims. It also demanded that all military activities, including by armed groups, be immediately ceased in the area surrounding the crash site to allow for security and safety of the international investigation.

The Council demanded that those responsible for this incident to held accountable and all nations cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability.

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Image: People surround a refrigerator wagon as monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and members of a forensic team inspect the remains of victims from the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, at a railway station in the eastern Ukrainian town of Torez
Photographs: Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters

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Pro-Russia rebels hand over MH17 black boxes

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Russia's Permanent Representative to the UN Vitaly Churkin said he voted in favour of the resolution as he supported a swift and thorough investigation. He stressed that his country had already acted to facilitate the investigation and was offering to provide experts. However, he stressed that there could be no jumping to conclusions or accusations.

Churkin said that all elements of the truth should be brought to light, such as through the black boxes provided to investigators.

He added that Kiev was attempting to draw on the shock of the international community, while its indiscriminate air strikes were hitting cities and killing civilians.

Explaining their votes after the adoption, Ukraine's representative to the UN Yuriy Sergeyev cited evidence that armed groups had carted away belongings of victims and tampered with evidence on the crash site. He accused the separatists of committing three crimes of bringing down the aircraft, mistreating the bodies and hampering the investigation and insisted that they be put on the list of terrorist organisations.

He said that there was evidence of pilfering of the remains, as well as evidence that Russia was financing and supporting the separatists. He called on Russia to end its support to the separatists, cooperate with the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's peace plan and to work with his country for peace in the region.

Sergeyev hoped that the investigation would answer questions of not only who had fired the missiles that brought down the plane but also where they obtained the weapons.

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Image: A board, with a message referencing Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko, is seen outside the village of Grabovo near the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in Donetsk
Photographs: Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters

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US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said the global community is "horrified and enraged" by the "clear intention of some to obstruct an investigation into how the passengers and crew died." Power said "armed thugs" are walking around the crash site and while "almost everyone has condemned this grotesque behaviour," the global community has not heard much condemnation from Russia.

"Russia has been outspoken on other matters. Russian officials have publicly insinuated that Ukraine was behind the crash."

Russia blamed Ukrainian air traffic controllers for this attack rather than condemning the criminals who shot down the plane. Since then, Russia has begun to blame Ukraine for the attack itself, though the missile came from separatist territory that Russia knows full well Ukraine has not yet reclaimed.

"But if Russia genuinely believed that Ukraine was involved in the shoot-down of Flight17, surely President (Vladimir) Putin would have told the separatists -- many of whose leaders are from Russia -- to guard the evidence at all costs, to maintain a forensically-pure, hermetically-sealed crime scene."

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Image: Armed pro-Russian separatists stand guard at a crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17
Photographs: Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters

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"Russia's muteness over the dark days between Thursday and today sent a message to the illegal armed groups it supports: We have your backs. This is the message Russia has sent by providing separatists with heavy weapons, by never publicly calling on them to lay down those weapons, and by massing thousands of troops at the Ukrainian border," she said.

Power stressed that Russia can "unequivocally" condemn the separatists' inhumane treatment of the bodies at the site and use its influence to ensure no evidence is tampered with.


Image: A man from the Ukrainian community living in Malaysia lights candles for a memorial to the victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which was downed over eastern Ukraine, in Kuala Lumpur
Photographs: Olivia Harris/Reuters

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