REBELS RANSACK AUSSIES’ LUGGAGE MOMENTS AFTER SHOOTING DOWN MH17
Shocking new video shows Russianbacked rebels ransacking the luggage of passengers, including 38 Australians, killed when MH17 was shot down. A year ago today, 298 innocents were murdered. Video obtained by the Herald Sun’s Charles Miranda reveals the rebels believed they had downed a Ukraine fighter jet.
DISTURBING footage has emerged showing Russianbacked rebels, believing they had shot down a Ukrainian fighter jet, ransacking the luggage of passengers and crew in the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.
A year ago today 298 passengers and crew, including 38 Australian citizens and residents, died when the Kuala Lumpur-bound plane was downed over eastern Ukraine, 40km from Russia’s border.
The Herald Sun has obtained camcorder footage, shot by the rebels themselves.
The rebels initially believed they had shot down a Ukrainian air force fighter jet with a ground-to-air missile system.
The film records their dismay as, minutes later, they discover the aircraft is a commercial airliner.
The Herald Sun this week handed the footage to a multinational joint investigation team of police from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine, which is due to report in four months.
It declined to comment, pending further investigation.
An investigation by this newspaper can reveal that just after 3pm local time — two hours after civilian air traffic control lost contact with MH17 at 1.20pm — a rebel unit was dispatched from Donetsk to hunt for Ukrainian pilots who had reportedly parachuted from their downed aircraft. An armed unit, guided by a smoke plume from the wreckage, arrived at the site and began the hunt for the pilots.
Militia reported that locals said they had seen one “crawling” from the scene after parachuting to safety.
However, to their evident confusion, they found more blazing wreckage and debris than they had expected.
The 17 minutes of footage, which was smuggled out from the rebels’ own Donetsk base, clearly shows the faces of the militia, and in the case of one, a Donetsk People’s Republic identity card.
The militia speak in both Russian and Ukrainian — conversations which the Herald Sun has had translated.
Disturbingly, the footage shows rebels working around the dismembered bodies of the passengers and crew to rummage through their belongings to find things of value.
They particularly express shock at finding the backpack of an Australian, before they pore over the person’s belongings, including a wash bag.
They toss numerous other bags aside and pile up a collection of mobile phones and other goods.
The commander of the militia unit at the site takes a call from headquarters and is told there were two planes.
He then orders all the civilians to be cleared from the area and for all filming to stop, citing his fear that footage could end up on the internet.
He even asks those who were filming as they went through bags to ensure that none of their faces are shown.
He then instructs his men to fan out and retrieve the black box flight recorders, and put everything in his car.
Off-camera, the commander can be heard rd saying: “They say the Sukhoi oi (fighter) brought down thee civilian plane and ours brought down the fighter.
“But where is the Sukhoi?
“There it is … it’s t’s the passenger plane.””
Later, he is shown an ID card belonging to a stewardess.
“You see, they are foreigners, Malayysians,” he says.
“Who’s opened a corridor for them too fly over here?” a rebel asks. sks.
A consignment of exotic birds aboard MH177 attracts bemused comments.
“Even a f---ing parrot arrot flew flew. There are birds everywhere. “Here’s one, here’s another. “Where from? There’s another bird there!”
The unidentified commander receives numerous phone calls from people believed to include Ruslan, a rebel military commander from Donetsk, Vladimir Antyufeyev, a former Russian policeman turned Donetsk rebel political leader, and Kalyian, a rebel commander from the embattled province of Lugansk.
An investigation by this newspaper can also reveal locals were being instructed on what to say they had seen over the skies.
This in included that the plane had b been fired on by an unidentified fighter, despite mounting evidence a ground-to-air missile downed it.
The militia’s confusion about the number of aircraft that had been shot down was worsened by the presence in the wreckage of spare aircraft parts, including struts and helicopter rotors, that MH17 had been carrying.
Memorial services in honour of the victims are due to be held in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, today.
Services will also be held in Australia, Malaysia, and in the Netherlands, whose citizens made up more than half of those who were aboard the doomed flight.
NOT until you have seen the Ukraine in the summer, when the vast fields of sunflowers and corn ripen, do you understand the flag of this nation. The simple azure horizontal stripe at the top represents the sky and the yellow the fields below.
So it was on a warm day, July 17 last year, when a Russian-made SA11 BUK missile tore from the gold into the blue, ending the lives of 298 passengers, including 38 Australians making their way home from the Netherlands via Malaysia.
Any doubt as to the horrific and reckless oversupply of heavy weapons across Russia and the former Soviet republic of the Ukraine, now the most eastern part of Europe, ended with those lives on that day.
MH17 was flying over Ukraine directly into Russian airspace. In an area bristling with ballistic missiles, and where the skies are constantly monitored, Russian military air controllers knew the commercial jet was approaching.
If the Russians and the military arm of the Ukrainian separatist movement are one and the same, it is difficult to accept the “terrible mistake” explanation that is so often told.
It goes that a group of Russianbacked rebels were sitting inside the BUK mobile missile tank watching radar blips and, believing them to be a passing Ukrainian military cargo plane, fired the missile.
Yet there was no good reason for a Ukrainian military plane, flying at such high altitude, to be so close to the border and headed directly into enemy Russia. Something about this story is wrong.
Separatists and Russians argue the Ukrainians devised the slaughter in order to win international sympathy — and military assistance — by blaming Russia, only months after it had annexed the Crimea from the Ukraine. Into this mess walked the Dutch and Australian police investigators, adopting attitudes of careful indifference to the war. Yet they needed to get right into the middle of it.
MH17 was brought to Earth deep in a conflict zone, where separatists had dug in around the crash site and were fighting Ukrainian troops over long distances via tank-to-tank, or cannon-to-cannon, combat.
It is now accepted that in the immediate aftermath, the people of several small villages surrounding the epicentre of the crash zone, and separatists, rescued what bodies and human remains they could,
Chances are the names of the guilty rebels, and their likely Russian military accomplices, are already known.
along with possessions, piling them into train carriages.
But an already terrible scene of carnage was amplified as outsiders descended on the wreckage to steal what they could. They found it easier to wander the site than Dutch and Australian police on a humanitarian mission.
(Incredibly, when an Australian Federal Police officer questioned me last year about my time in Ukraine covering MH17, he mentioned that other Australian news teams had admitted to souveniring wreckage objects from the scene. They were asked to give them back.)
THE aim was to recover the “remains of the remains”, as the AFP commander on the scene, Brian McDonald, described it, and negotiations were required to ensure they could enter without being caught in the crossfire.
For all this, some good was extracted from the site, thanks to more than 200 Australian personnel, plus many more from other nations, who were able to bring some satisfaction to families by gathering wreckage that helped establish the cause, but most particularly by repatriating the further human remains.
That may seem like small comfort, given that the searchers only confirmed what most families already knew to be true.
However, had you seen one set of Australian parents who travelled to the crash site because of their complete refusal to believe that they had lost their beautiful daughter to a missile, you could see how important providing this grim confirmation was.
It was not easy on the site. Ceasefires were not respected and heavy artillery fire ultimately repelled searchers who just wanted to take evidence home.
Still, all Australian remains have now been identified. In fact, all but two of the people aboard the flight have been identified, a remarkable forensic achievement given that some victims were seated over the heaviest part of the plane, the landing gear, which hit and burned hardest.
The murderers have no doubt long since slipped silently into Russia, well out of reach of international prosecutors.
The chances are that the names of the guilty rebels, and their likely Russian military accomplices, are already known, but extracting them from Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a lot to hope for.
Perhaps only the crushing pain of their guilt will bring them from their lairs.