A Ukrainian investigator (left) walks by charred debris, as a pro-Russian rebel guards him, at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, July 20, 2014.
Hocdethi is following the latest reports on the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. See our previous coverage here.
3 things you need to know:
The Malaysian government is concerned the crash site has been "severely compromised."
Pro-Russian rebels say they have recovered the plane's black boxes.
Rebels load victims' bodies onto train cars, bound for an unknown destination.
REPORTERS IN UKRAINE: Christopher Miller (@christopherjm) | EDITORS ON DUTY IN TORONTO AND NEW YORK: Anita Li (@neeeda), Brian Ries (@moneyries) and Jonathan Ellis (@jonathanellis)
3:24 p.m. ET: Malaysia is concerned that the crash site has been 'severely compromised' despite rebel leader's assurances
The Malaysian government is concerned that Flight 17's crash site has been "severely compromised," despite assurances from a pro-Russian separatist leader that rebels have not tampered with it, the country's transport minister said on Sunday.
"Malaysia is very concerned that the sanctity of the crash site has been severely compromised," Liow Tiong Lai said in an update posted to the Ministry of Transport Malaysia's Facebook page. "Malaysia demands that all human remains must be allowed to be recovered, identified and repatriated."
The site is currently under separatist control, he added. "The situation is further hampered by reports that a number of competing separatist groups control the area in and around the crash site, with no clear leader or chain of command."
Liow also responded to reports that black boxes are in rebel custody, insisting that "these crucial pieces of evidence are not tampered with and are handed over to the international team."
The transport minister flew to Kiev on Sunday afternoon, local time, and met with Ukrainian government officials. A Malaysian team of 133 officials and experts, including a search-and-recovery team, arrived in Kiev on Saturday morning, local time. A Joint International Investigation Team, including officials from Malaysia, the Netherlands, Britain and the United States, has been established.
In the Facebook post, Liow demanded "immediate and unrestricted access to the crash site and guaranteed safety for its officials and those of the international team."
The Malaysian government is concerned the team is being prevented from entering the site, he said, adding that the only international body that has managed to "briefly" access it was the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
12:45 p.m. ET: Rebels load MH17 victims' bodies onto train cars, destination unknown
TOREZ, Ukraine — Pro-Russian rebels on Sunday loaded an unknown number of decaying bodies from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 onto three train cars in Torez, Ukraine, a mining town 10 miles south of where the jetliner is believed to have been shot down on Thursday.
Ukraine's emergency service workers said Saturday that they had removed 196 bodies of the 298 people who were on board the plane when it met its fiery end in war-torn eastern Ukraine on Thursday, the Associated Press reported.
Around midday, observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's Special Monitoring Mission inspected the three refrigerated train cars that will carry the remains away. They did so under the watch of dozens of armed rebels.
"The special monitoring mission in its third day dealing with the incident has now monitored the location where bodies are being refrigerated in three wagons," Alexander Hug, deputy chief of the mission, told journalists at the Torez train depot. "We have not been able to count them as that would be too difficult in this situation."
Read Christopher Miller's full report on Hocdethi.
12:30 p.m. ET: Sky News apologizes after reporter digs through victims’ luggage on air
Sky News reporter Colin Brazier filmed a segment from the crash site on Sunday where he turned the camera on one of the Malaysia Airlines victim's luggage.
“…keys, a toothbrush, and…we shouldn’t really be doing this,” he says in the short clip, which was captured by a viewer on Vine who criticized the reporter's actions.
After a brief uproar on Twitter, Sky News apologized for the incident, calling the reporter’s actions “inappropriate.”
"Today whilst presenting from the site of the MH17 air crash Colin Brazier reflected on the human tragedy of the event and showed audiences the content of one of the victims' bags,” a Sky News spokesperson told BNO News. “Colin immediately recognized that this was inappropriate and said so on air. Both Colin and Sky News apologize profusely for any offense caused."
The rebels have been accused of going through luggage at the crash site since it was first shot down. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has called reports of the rebels rummaging through the MH17 victims’ things “downright disgusting."
10:54 a.m. ET: 20th International AIDS Conference pays tribute to colleagues on Flight 17
Attendees of the 20th International AIDS Conference paid tribute to the six delegates who died on Flight 17 at the event's opening session.
"A one-minute global remembrance was held in their honour with eleven former, present and future presidents of the International AIDS Society onstage together with representatives from those organizations who lost colleagues, the World Health Organization, AIDS Fonds, Stop AIDS Now, The Female Health Company, the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development, and members of the Dutch HIV research community," according to a conference statement.
Condolence books are being shared at the conference, which is taking place in Melbourne, Australia, and a candlelight vigil is scheduled to take place in the city.
10 a.m. ET: Vine videos from the crash site
NBC News foreign correspondent Keir Simmons is at the crash site in eastern Ukraine, and posted these two Vine videos that show what’s left of Flight 17 at the site:
9:50 a.m. ET: Rebels discuss the black boxes
The Ukrainian government released a YouTube video on Sunday that it said shows recorded conversations between rebels operating at the crash site.
In the first tape, an alleged rebel leader is talking to his charge on the ground about Flight 17’s black boxes.
When a rebel, Oleksiy, says he doesn’t know who has them, the leader responds, “Do it really quick. Urgently. Moscow asks where the boxes are,” he says.
The rebel at the site says the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is there. The leader tells him they are interested in the black boxes. “They must be under our control,” he says.
In the second tape, the rebel leader tells Oleksiy not to let anybody else take anything from the crash site, saying that everything must remain in the separatists' control.
In the third tape, the rebel at the site says he’s found the box. “We found something. This is just a box — satellite navigation block.”
“Hide it anyway,” the leader responds.
The audio recordings surfaced on the same YouTube account as an earlier recording that showed the rebels discussing the downed plane. The U.S. Embassy in Kiev referenced the recordings in its "United States Assessment of the Downing of Flight MH17 and its Aftermath" that we posted about, below.
Read the full report on Mashable.
9:30 a.m. ET: U.S. lays out the evidence
The United States released its evidence on Sunday that it says shows Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was downed by a missile fired from within rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine.
The evidence, which were posted on the website for the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine (and summarized below by Mashable), includes:
Russia is training separatist fighters on air defense systems at a facility in southwest Russia. Rebels have downed more than a dozen aircraft over the past few months. Around the time MH17 dropped out of the air, the U.S. detected a surface-to-air missile launch from a separatist-controlled area in southeastern Ukraine. “We believe this missile was an SA-11,” the U.S. says. Separatist communications obtained by the Ukrainian government reveal rebels discussing having and repositioning antiaircraft systems. Social media posts and a video that show a SA-11 system traveling through the separatist-controlled area where the jet was downed. One of the systems was missing one missile. Social media posts that show rebel leaders claiming responsibility for shooting down what they thought was a military transport plane on social media. Those posts were later deleted.
Read the full list of allegations, here.
8:45 a.m. ET: Rebels say they have Flight 17's black boxes
Rebels have recovered the black boxes from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and will hand them over to the International Civil Aviation Organization, a rebel leader said Sunday.
Alexander Borodai, self-proclaimed leader of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic, also said the bodies recovered from the crash site in eastern Ukraine would remain in refrigerated train cars at a station in the rebel-held town of Torez, 15 kilometers (9 miles) away, until the arrival of an international aviation delegation.
"Some items, presumably the black boxes, were found and they have been delivered to Donetsk and they are under our control," Borodai said at a news conference, according to Reuters.
It was not immediately clear Sunday if the rebels and the Ukrainian government were working together or were at odds with each other on recovering the bodies — and from their comments, many of officials didn't appear to know either.
A Ukrainian emergency spokesperson said the armed rebels had forced emergency workers to hand over all 196 bodies recovered from the Malaysia Airlines crash site, and did not tell them where the bodies were going. Ukrainian government officials, meanwhile, prepared a disaster crisis center in the government-held city of Kharkiv, expecting to receive the bodies, but those hopes appeared delayed or even dashed Sunday.
"The bodies will go nowhere until experts arrive," Borodai said, speaking in the rebel-held city of Donetsk.
Borodai said he was expecting a team of 12 Malaysian experts and that he was disappointed at how long they had taken to arrive. He insisted that rebels had not interfered with the crash investigation, despite reports to the contrary by international monitors and journalists at the crash site.
7:40 a.m. ET: British prime minister demands that Russia stop supporting rebels in Ukraine
British Prime Minister David Cameron demanded Sunday that Russia end its support for the rebels in Ukraine, arguing that Russia's policies destabilized the country, and created the conditions that appear to have led to the downing of Malaysian Airways Flight 17.
In an unusual front-page op-ed in The Sunday Times, Cameron says there is growing evidence that separatist rebels, backed by Russia, shot down the aircraft, killing 298 people.
"If this is the case then we must be clear what it means: This is a direct result of Russia destabilizing a sovereign state, violating its territorial integrity, backing thuggish militias and training and arming them," Cameron wrote.
The British leader said that if Russian President Vladimir Putin stopped supporting the rebels, then the crisis in Ukraine could be brought to an end.
"If President Putin does not change his approach to Ukraine, then Europe and the West must fundamentally change our approach to Russia," Cameron wrote.
Views in London are hardening on Ukraine amid anger over access at the crash site. Images from the site have shown rebels picking through the wreckage and personal belongings of victims.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told the BBC that Putin could "snap his fingers" to allow a proper investigation.
"The eyes of the world are on Vladimir Putin and what we are seeing from the Russians is obfuscation and obstruction at the moment," Hammond said.
Cameron also took European leaders to task for vacillating on Ukraine. While some countries have pushed for tough action against Russia, others have tried to contain the crisis.
"In Europe we should not need to be reminded of the consequences of turning a blind eye when big countries bully smaller countries," he wrote. "We should not need reminding of the consequences of letting the doctrine of 'might is right' prevail."
5:36 a.m. ET: Malaysia Airlines retires MH17 flight number
Malaysia Airline says it is retiring the flight number of the plane that was shot down over Ukraine.
The carrier said in a statement Sunday that beginning Friday, it will no longer use MH17 to identify any of its Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flights. It said it is doing so "out of respect for our crew and passengers" who were aboard the plane.
The airline said the new flight number replacing MH17 would be MH19.
It also said there would be no changes to the frequency of its Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur service, and that it would continue to operate daily flights between the cities.
12:15 a.m. ET: Malaysian prime minister says Flight 17 did not make a distress call
The Malaysia Airlines jetliner that went down in war-torn Ukraine did not make any distress call, Malaysia's prime minister said Friday, adding that its flight route had been declared safe by the global civil aviation body.
Najib Razak, who addressed a middle-of-the-night news conference after speaking with leaders of Ukraine and the Netherlands, and to U.S. President Barack Obama, said "no stone will be left unturned" in finding out what happened to Flight 17 and the 298 people on board.
It is the second tragedy to hit Malaysia Airlines this year. Its Flight 370 disappeared March 8 while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. It has not been found, but the search has been concentrated in the Indian Ocean west of Australia.
"This is a tragic day in what has already been a tragic year for Malaysia," Najib said.
A U.S. official said American intelligence authorities believe a surface-to-air missile took down the plane, but it is not clear who fired it. He said it appears unlikely the Ukrainian government, which has denied responsibility, shot down the plane because it doesn't have the capabilities. Pro-Russia separatists fighting the government have also denied any responsibility.
"At this stage, however, Malaysia is unable to verify the cause of this tragedy but we must, and we will, find out precisely what happened to this flight," Najib said. "If it transpires that the plane was indeed shot down we insist that the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice," he said.
Najib said the aircraft flight route was declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organization. The International Air Transportation Association had also stated that the air space that the aircraft was traversing was not subject to restrictions, he said. Besides, "Malaysia Airlines has confirmed that the aircraft did not make a distress call."
Najib added that the Ukrainian government has promised a full and thorough investigation, which will include Malaysian officials. He said they will also negotiate with rebels to "establish a humanitarian corridor to the crash site."
In his conversation with Obama, Najib said they agreed that "the investigation must not be hindered in any way. An international team must have full access to the crash site. And no one must interfere with the area, or move any debris, including the black box."
12:03 a.m. ET: Global leaders express shock over Flight 17's downing
International leaders and officials expressed grief and shock at the crash Thursday in eastern Ukraine of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet carrying 298 people. Several pledged to contribute to investigation efforts. The plane en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was carrying 154 Dutch citizens, 43 Malaysians, 27 Australians and passengers of several other nationalities.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte:
Possibly one of the worst air disasters in Dutch history... I am shocked. I am broken up. All of us in the Netherlands are in deep mourning.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak:
We must - and we will - find out precisely what happened to this flight. No stone can be left unturned. If it transpires that the plane was indeed shot down, we insist that the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice.
This is a tragic day, in what has already been a tragic year, for Malaysia... The flight's passengers and crew came from many different countries. But today, regardless of nationality, we are all united in grief.
Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko called it an "act of terrorism" and demanded an international investigation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin:
This tragedy would not have happened if there were peace on this land, if the military actions had not been renewed in southeast Ukraine.
And, certainly, the state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility for this awful tragedy.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott:
We owe it as well to the families of the dead to find out exactly what has happened and exactly who is responsible. ... As things stand, this looks less like an accident than a crime. And if so, the perpetrators must be brought to justice.
United States Secretary of State John Kerry:
We are horrified by the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. There are no words adequate to express our condolences to the families of the nearly 300 victims. We offer our sympathies and support to the Governments of Malaysia and the Netherlands at this difficult time, as well as to all those whose citizens may have been on board. We are reviewing whether any American citizens were aboard the flight.
The United States Government remains prepared to assist with a credible, international investigation any way we can, and we will continue to be in touch with all relevant partners as we seek the facts of what happened today.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon:
There is clearly a need for a full and transparent international investigation.
Chris Beyrer, president-elect of the International AIDS Society:
Commenting on reports that world-renowned Dutch HIV researcher Joep Lange was on Flight 17, "then the HIV/AIDS movement has truly lost a giant."
Commenting on reports that world-renowned Dutch HIV researcher Joep Lange was on Flight 17, "then the HIV/AIDS movement has truly lost a giant."
Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim:
This is yet another national tragedy and our moment of deep grief and sorrow.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press
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