Investigators from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe say pro-Russian rebels have “hacked into” pieces of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 wreckage with power saws, NBC News reports.
The rear of the plane, which constitutes one of the biggest pieces of wreckage found at the crash site in eastern Ukraine, has “definitely been hacked into,” OSCE spokesman Michael Bociurkiw said. The cockpit has also been cut into with a saw, but Bociurkiw said that could have been done in an attempt to reach bodies.
Pro-Russian rebels who have taken control of eastern Ukraine have been accused of tampering with evidence at the MH17 crash site. U.S. officials have said that it was likely a rebel missile that brought down the passenger plane with 298 people on board, but Russia is saying that the Ukrainian government is to blame for the disaster.
The Malaysian Airlines plane was likely mistaken for a Ukrainian aircraft.
As the Associated Press points out, the location of the pieces of wreckage could provide information about how the attack unfolded.
Aviation industry consultant Chris Yates told the AP: “You can effectively backtrack and give a relatively high degree of confidence in the location where that missile took off from. If that location happens to be in rebel-held territory, which we all suspect it is, that would be the first point where you could point the finger of blame.”
Western officials are reportedly concerned that the separatists are trying to cover up evidence that could be damning to them by tampering with debris.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Tuesday that officials are seeing “evidence tampering on an industrial scale” at the crash site.
“This site has been trampled from the beginning and we haven’t just seen all sorts of random individuals roaming around the site, picking over the remains, picking over the wreckage,” Abbott said. “The more recent footage suggests it’s more like a building demolition. And this again is unacceptable.”
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