MH17 crash: Nato sees evidence 'weapons are still moving from Russia to Ukraine'

UK experts will examine MH17 flight data from the black boxes today

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The Independent Online

Nato is still seeing evidence of weapons being moved from Russia into Ukraine after the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was downed last week, a Nato military officer has said.

The first 40 bodies from the 298 passengers killed who were on board the 17 July flight arrived in the Netherlands yesterday for identification and more bodies are expected to arrive today. The Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has this morning warned it could take "weeks or even months" before remains of the 43 Malaysians on board are repatriated.

On Wednesday, Ukraine’s defence ministry said two of their fighter jets had been shot down close to the crash site in eastern Ukraine by pro-Russian rebels, apparently by missiles.

Western leaders have accused Russia of arming the rebels throughout the crisis in Ukraine. The unnamed officer said: "We have noted an increase in the amount of weapons being transferred from Russia to Ukraine in the last several weeks.

“We continue to see evidence of the movement of weapons into Ukraine from Russia since the downing of (Malaysia Airlines flight) MH17, which is a cause for concern.”

The European Union has said Russia must stop the flow of weapons across the border or face tougher sanctions.

The news comes as investigators from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch in Hampshire tasked with analysing the plane’s black boxes confirmed they had successfully downloaded “valid data” from the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) which will be "further analysed".

The Dutch Safety Board (DSB), which is leading the investigation, said the CVR was damaged but the memory module intact, while "no evidence or indications of manipulation" was found after it was handed over by rebels earlier this week. The CVR records conversations and ambient sounds in the cockpit of a flight.

An examination of the flight data recorder (FDR) will begin today.

The DSB said: "This will show whether this recorder also contains relevant information, in which case the data from both recorders will be combined."

Last night, Alexander Borodai, the self-styled prime minister of the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), told the BBC his forces did not have the missile intelligence sources believe shot down the plane, insisting that any evidence showing otherwise is a “fake”.

"No, we didn't get a Buk. There were no BUKs in the area" he insisted.

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Any photographs purporting to show a SA-11 BUK missile launcher, the type some believe brought down the passenger jet, were “photoshopped”, he added.

Borodai also claimed the US President Barack Obama was "feeding off the Ukrainian propaganda machine" and blamed the OSCE monitors for the bodies being left in fields for three days, who he said told him: “I represent 57 countries. Don’t you dare touch the bodies of the dead."

On the same night, separatist commander Alexander Khodakovsky appeared to contradict Borodai, telling Reuters the rebels could have received a BUK missile system from Russia.

3borodai-afp.jpgHe said: "That Buk I know about. I heard about it. I think they sent it back. Because I found out about it at exactly the moment that I found out that this tragedy had taken place. They probably sent it back in order to remove proof of its presence.”

However, he later appeared to retract his comments, telling Russian news agency Life News that he had simply been discussing "possible versions" with Reuters. He insisted rebels "do not have and have never had" a BUK. 

Additional reporting by agencies