Russian-backed separatists tampering with MH17 crash site [Darleen Click]
Muddying up an already contentious situation.
Almost two days after Flight 17 was downed by a missile over rebel-held territory in the east of Ukraine, representatives from the Kiev government had still not been allowed access to the mammoth crash site, and rebels were preventing local emergency services personnel from gathering evidence, Ukrainian officials said.
“They’re playing a game with the state. They behave as an independent country. The reason is to make all the procedures illegitimate,” said Konstantin Batozsky, an adviser to Serhiy Taruta, governor of the Donetsk region.
He said that during the night, rebels had removed 37 bodies to a hospital in the rebel-held city of Donetsk, where they were apparently planning to do their own medical investigation.
“Russian-led terrorists are preventing access of the international community and foreign governments to the location where MH17 crashed,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk wrote on Twitter. [...]
“The people who are working for our side in the place of the tragedy do not have free movement,” said Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council. “They are under control of the terrorists, who are taking all the evidence away from them.”
He said that Ukrainian officials still did not have access to crucial flight data recorders, the fate of which remained unclear on Saturday. The recorders could provide important clues about the final moments of the flight. Rebels first said they had the recorders and planned to ship them to Russia, then said they were mistaken about having the equipment in their possession.
Rebels “have what they describe as experts, so-called experts here,” OSCE spokesman Michael Bociurkiw said. “They’ve brought body bags and they’re moving the bodies to the side of the road, as far as we can tell.”
“We don’t know who they are,” Bociurkiw said of the people moving the bodies. “We’ve explained who we are and what we need to do, but we’re basically, our movements are being quite controlled at the moment.”
A spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said a team of 24 international observers had seen people moving bodies and putting them in body bags. The team was sharply restricted in what it could do and see, he said.
The site has also experienced looting
After the crash, investigators were unable to get to the site quickly and rope it off to preserve evidence. This allowed armed separatists and locals to essentially raid the scene. Suitcases were removed from the wreckage and pillaged. The coldhearted looters stole a variety of personal possessions, but left behind some apparent undesirables: a Minnie Mouse lunchbox, a Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal, family photographs, and intact passports.
As for what they took, wallets and credit cards were a favorite. A photojournalist at the scene said, “There isn’t a single cellphone, wallet with money or camera to be found in any handbag or on the bodies. It’s like they all mysteriously disappeared overnight.”
Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister (who was also one of the first to blame pro-Russian separatists for the crash) reported that jewelry and credit cards were among the items being pilfered. A post on his Facebook page reads in English, “I have just now received information That Terrorists – Death-hunters collecting Were not Only Cash money and Jewelry of the crashed Boing [sic] passengers died but Also the credit cards of the Victims. Currently They might as well TRY to use Them in Ukraine or Pass Them on to Russia. My humble Request to the Relatives of the Victims to Freeze Their credit cards, so That They will not loose Their assets to Terrorists!”
Next up, Prez IWonPenPhone contemplating a strongly-worded condemnation letter using a forceful and confident font.