Malaysia Flight MH17 Black Box May Now Be In Moscow: Here's A Complete Update On The Crash

Malaysia mh17ReutersYesterday, pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels had unfettered access to the site where flight MH17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile.

At least one of the “black box” flight data recorders on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 may already have been spirited away to Moscow by the pro-Russian separatist rebels who shot the plane down with a surface to air missile, killing 298 civilian people on board, according to The Telegraph and the BBC.

Although the rebels said they would give international investigators and recovery workers access to the crash site, the loss of one of the plane’s two black boxes will likely heighten international tensions. MH17, a Boeing 777, was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Most of its passengers were going on vacation.

Here are all the latest overnight updates in the increasingly complicated tragedy in the Ukraine.

Politicians are making thinly veiled threats of revenge. U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton said the world would “put [Vladimir] Putin on notice that he has gone too far and we are not going to stand idly by,” according to The Guardian. Australian PM Tony Abbott is visibly fuming with anger at the way Russia has fuelled a conflict that killed Australian citizens. U.S. Sen. John McCain said “I think there’s going to be hell to pay.”

The pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels who shot the plane down say they will allow access to the site. Photos and video from the crash site show civilians and camouflage-wearing rebels climbing all over the debris. That might complicate the forensics of a formal investigation.

MH17 mapWikimedia, CCA map of the flight.

Meanwhile, the rebels say they have handed one black box recorder to Russia already.The BBC reports: “The Interfax-Ukraine news agency earlier reported that another black box was found by separatist fighters and handed over to Moscow. Observers say the move, if confirmed, is likely to cause international controversy.”

No one trusts the Russians to investigate the alleged crimes of the rebels they’re backing in Ukraine, basically.

“The separatists have reportedly found the plane’s black box among the debris near the town of Torez, 24 miles from the Russian border. The separatists have said they will hand them to Moscow,” The Telegraph says.

The crash killed 100 people who were on their way to an HIV-AIDS research conference. It’s possible that the missile also therefore set back efforts to find a cure for the disease, The Guardian says:

As many as 100 of the world’s leading HIV/Aids researchers and advocates may have been on the Malaysia Airlines flight that crashed in Ukraine, in what has been described as a “devastating” blow to efforts to tackle the virus.

The U.S. has confirmed that the plane was shot down with the loss of 295 people aboard. There are conflicting reports as to whether the death toll is 295 or 298. Here’s the breakdown by nationality:

— 154 Dutch — 43 Malaysian — 27 Australian — 12 Indonesian — 9 British — 4 German — 4 Belgian — 3 Filipino — 1 Canadian — 41 nationality so far unknown.

Russian president Vladimir Putin blamed Ukraine for the crash, the Financial Times says. “This tragedy would not have happened if there were peace on this land, if the military actions had not been renewed in southeast Ukraine.”

It’s pretty clear that the pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels are to blame, however. The FT continues, “in a posting on a Russian social networking site that was later taken down, Igor Strelkov, a rebel military commander, boasted on Thursday afternoon of downing what he said was a Ukrainian military An-26 transport aircraft. He said the rebels had “warned them not to fly into ‘our sky'”. It could not be immediately established if the posting was genuine. Russia’s Ria-Novosti agency also reported rebels had shot down an An-26 near Torez.”

Here’s an audio recording of two rebels belatedly realising their comrades have downed a civilian plane and not a military transport jet:

“It’s 100% a passenger aircraft,” Major is recorded as saying, noting that he saw no weapons on-site. “Absolutely nothing. Civilian items, medicinal stuff, towels, toilet paper.”

In another segment, a militant reports in to Mykola Kozitsyn, believed to be one of the Cossack leaders of the rebel movement. “As to this plane shot down nearby Snezhnoe-Torez,” the militant says. “This turned out to be a passenger one. It fell down outside Grabovo, there is a whole lot of bodies of women and children.”

“On TV they say like it is a Ukranian AN-26, a transport plane. But the writing says ‘Malaysian Airlines’. What was it doing over the territory of the Ukraine.”

Indeed, what was the plane doing over Ukraine, a war zone? Other airlines had been avoiding the airspace for months. The Telegraph via AFP adds:

AFP news agency are reporting that a number of Asian airlines stopped flying over Ukraine months ago because of security concerns.

South Korea’s two main airlines, Korean Air and Asiana, as well as Australia’s Qantas and Taiwan’s China Airlines said they had all re-routed flights from as early as the beginning of March when Russian troops moved into Crimea.

“We stopped flying over Ukraine because of safety concerns,” Asiana spokeswoman Lee Hyo-Min said.

Korean Air moved its flight paths 160 miles south of Ukraine from March 3 “due to the political unrest in the region”, an official for the carrier told AFP

Here are some deeply upsetting photos of the crash site, with Ukrainians randomly wandering around amid a tangle of dead bodies.

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