A disturbing video has surfaced that shows Russian-backed rebels ransacking the luggage of passengers and crew shortly after Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 crashed.
The Australian foreign minister says the video is deeply disturbing and described it as “sickening to watch”.
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RUSSIAN-backed rebels in Ukraine’s east believed they had shot down a Ukraine Airforce fighter jet as disturbing new footage shows them ransacking the luggage of passengers and crew from Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17.
A year ago today, 298 passengers and crew including 38 Australian citizens and residents died aboard the Kuala Lumpur bound commercial flight after it was shot down over east Ukraine, 40km from the Russian border.
Much footage exists particularly on the internet of the aftermath of the downed airliner, smouldering over three main wreckage sites about the rebel stronghold of the embattled Dontesk region.
But, after a 12-month pursuit, News Corp Australia has obtained new footage shot by the rebels themselves on a camcorder as they captured what they initially believed to be a Ukrainian air force fighter jet they had just shot down using a ground-to-air missile system.
The shocking footage has already prompted horrified responses from Australia’s political leaders. Prime Minister Tony Abbott called it “an atrocity” and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said it was “sickening to watch”.
The film records their dismay as they minutes later discover the aircraft is a commercial airliner.
A multinational joint investigation team (JIT), made up of police from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine was this week handed the footage by News Corp and declined to comment pending further investigation. They are due to report on all their findings in four months’ time.
But an investigation by News Corp can reveal a unit from Donetsk was dispatched shortly after 3pm local time, two hours after contact by civilian air traffic control was lost at 1.20pm, to hunt Ukrainian pilots who reportedly parachuted after their aircraft was shot down.
An armed unit followed a smoke plume from the wreckage to arrive at the site and begin the hunt for the pilots with militia reporting locals as having seen one “crawling” from the scene after parachuting to safety.
But to their confusion, arriving at the scene they find more blazing wreckage and debris than expected before a mobile telephone call is received telling them two aircraft were downed.
The 17-minute long footage smuggled out from the rebels’ own Donetsk base, clearly identifies the militia by face and in one instance his self proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic ID, as they disturbingly work around the dismembered bodies of the passengers and crew to rummage through their belongings to find things of value.
Speaking in both Russian and Ukrainian, they particularly express shock at the backpack of an Australian victim, before they pore through the person’s belongings including a wash bag.
They toss numerous other bags and make a piled collection of phones and other goods.
The militia unit commander on site takes a call from headquarters and is told there were two planes and he then orders all the civilians to be cleared from the area and all filming to stop, citing his fear it could end up on the internet. He even asks those filming to ensure none of their faces are shown as they go through the bags. He then instructs his men to fan out and retrieve the black box flight recorders and put everything in his car.
The commander can be heard off camera saying: “They say the Sukhoi (Fighter) brought down the civilian plane and ours brought down the fighter.
“But where is the Sukhoi?
“There it is … it’s the passenger plane.”
Later he is shown an ID card belonging to an air stewardess.
“You see, they are foreigners, Malaysians,” he says.
“Who’s opened a corridor for them to fly over here?” a colleague asks.
“Even a f**king parrot flew. There are birds everywhere, here’s one, here’s another. Where from? There’s another bird there!”
The exotic colourful birds were part of the MH17 cargo consignment flying to Malaysia.
The unidentified commander receives numerous phone calls from people believed to include Ruslan, a rebel military commander from Donetsk, Vladimir Antyufeyev, former Russian policeman turned Donetsk rebel political leader, and Kalyian a rebel commander from the equally embattled province of Lugansk.
An investigation by News Corp can also reveal locals were being instructed on what to say they had seen over the skies on that day a year ago, including the airline being fired on by an unidentified fighter jet, despite mounting evidence it was shot down from a ground-to-air missile.
The confusion by militia on the day was compounded by the fact MH17 was carrying spare aircraft parts, including struts and rotors for helicopters, leading them to believe more than one aircraft was among that debris.
Today memorial services are being held in the Ukrainian capital Kiev as well as Malaysia, Australia and two in the Netherlands whose citizens made up more than half of those aboard the doomed flight.