International inspectors are being turned away from the MH17 crash site by pro-Russian militants who Ukrainian officials say are in the process of moving bodies and destroying evidence. Separatists fired warning shots at a group of thirty officials as they approached the site, according to the Daily Mail.
When representatives of the OSCE arrived to inspect the crash site, ‘We encountered armed personnel who acted in a very impolite and unprofessional manner. Some of them even looked slightly intoxicated,’ a spokesman said. Yesterday Michael Bociurkiw told CNN it seemed as though no one was in control of the site.
Separatists claim to have recovered “eight out of twelve” of the black boxes–an odd claim, given that planes typically have two–one for flight data and the other to record cockpit voices. However, rebel leader Aleksandr Borodai said that they have not recovered any, afterwards. In yet another contradiction, an advisor to the “governor” of the rebel “Republic” said that flight recordings had been handed over to Ukrainian officials.
“It basically looks like the biggest crime scene in the world right now, guarded by a bunch of guys in uniform with heavy firepower who are quite inhospitable,” Bociurkiw said. “And there didn’t seem to be anyone really in control, for example. One of our top priorities was to find out what happened to the black boxes. No one was there to answer those questions.”
A government spokesman said, “At 7 a.m. on July 19, 186 bodies have been found. The area that needs to be checked stands at 25 square km. Eighteen square km have already been checked. The fighters have allowed Emergencies Ministry workers in there, but they do not allow them to take anything from the area. The fighters are taking away all that has been found.”
Ukraine’s government has issues a statement saying that it believes rebels have uncovered the black boxes and hidden them. In any case, the proud representatives of the unrecognized People’s Republic of Donetsk are refusing to hand them over. ‘The government of Ukraine officially states that the terrorists, with the help of Russia, are trying to destroy evidence of international crimes,’ a statement said. “According to government data, the terrorists have taken 38 bodies to the morgue in Donetsk.” The statement accused specialists with “strong Russian accents” of threatening to perform their own autopsies on the bodies.
Footage broadcast by Sky News shows a militant commander telling officials, “I have told you many times – you are on the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic.” He added, “You are being taken out of here. This is the order of your guards.”
All of this fuels speculation that the rebels shot down the plane with a missile fired from a Buk launcher–something that AP journalists noted in the area shortly before the attack that killed 298, including up to 100 AIDS researchers.
Militants bragged about shooting down what they claimed was a military plane shortly before reports surfaced that MH17 had crashed. “In the vicinity of Torez, we just downed a plane, an AN-26. It is lying somewhere in the Progress Mine. We have issued warnings not to fly in our airspace. We have video confirming. The bird fell on a waste heap. Residential areas were not hit. Civilians were not injured,” Igor Girkin wrote on the Russian version of Facebook in a since-deleted post.
Girkin tweeted that, “In the area Torez we just hit down An-26, it’s lying somewhere in the mine ‘Progress,’ adding that, “We warned you – do not fly in ‘our sky.’ And here is the video confirmation of the “bird dropping”. He posted a video that seemed to show the crash site. The video and tweets were quickly deleted, presumably after he discovered that they had shot down a civilian aircraft.