Ukraine's government said Sunday that intercepted phone conversations between pro-Russian rebels show that the militiamen were trying to find and hide the flight-data recorders from the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 under orders from Moscow.
Meanwhile, a pro-Russian separatist leader said that the rebels had recovered the data recorders, or black boxes, and would hand them over to the International Civil Aviation Organization.
The fate of the black boxes was just one source of confusion on Sunday, as rebels loaded bodies of some of the 298 crash victims onto train cars without saying where they would be taken.
'Moscow asks where the boxes are'
The recordings, above, which the Ukrainian security service posted to YouTube, alleged separatists speak about finding the black boxes, and preventing anyone else from accessing them. Mashable cannot independently confirm the authenticity of the recordings, but the same YouTube account has posted other tapes of alleged rebel conversations that the United States has verified.
- In the first segment, an alleged rebel leader is talking to his charge on the ground about Flight 17’s black boxes, according to English translations in the video, which were supplied by the Ukrainian government.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."The rebel at the site says monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe are 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 again alludes to outside influences: "Our friends from high above are very much interested in the fate of the 'black boxes.' I mean people from Moscow."The leader tells another militiaman not to let anybody else take anything from the crash site, saying that everything must remain in control of the separatists.
- In the third recording, Oleksiy tells the leader that he has found what might be one of the flight-data recorders, but isn't sure. "They should look like some orange small barrels?" he asks."The hell I know?" the leader responds.(Despite their nickname, "black boxes" are typically orange in color, so they can be easily spotted at a crash site.)“Okay. We found something," Oleksiy says. "This is just a box — satellite navigation block.”“Hide it anyway,” the leader responds.
Who has the flight-data recorders?
Alexander Borodai, rebel leader and self-proclaimed prime minister of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic, said Sunday that rebels had found the black boxes, and would turn them over to the International Civil Aviation Organization.
"Some items, presumably the black boxes, were found, and they have been delivered to Donetsk and they are under our control," Reuters quoted Borodai as saying.
Borodai denied that the recorders had been sent to Moscow, the BBC reported.
Borodai's statement and the audio recordings seem to back up the following video from the crash site, posted Sunday, which shows someone carrying what appears to be an orange data recorder:
According to NBC News:
The men in the video are wearing Ukrainian Emergency Ministry uniforms, but a senior Ukrainian official told a news conference Sunday that rebels had taken the black boxes.
The black boxes could be a key piece of evidence, as the world tries to determine who is responsible for the downing of Flight 17. Rebels are impeding the work of investigators at the crash site, as untrained militiamen pick through the wreckage.
But even without the data from the black boxes, the United States released evidence on Sunday that it said shows Flight 17 was shot down by a missile fired from within rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine.
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