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Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Pro-Russian rebel 'admits to shooting down plane'


Michael Day
Wednesday 23 July 2014 08:35 BST

A pro-Russian militiaman has said his forces shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, according to a report in an Italian newspaper.

When the disaster happened the rebel was told by his superiors that they had hit a Ukrainian military craft. “‘We hit a plane from Kiev,’ our commanders told us. We thought we’d be fighting Ukrainian pilots landing in parachutes but instead we came across the corpses of civilians, the remains of bodies, along with suitcases and bags,” he told Corriere della Sera newspaper.

The paramilitary was from the Oplot fighting unit. He was speaking at the Torez railway station where the bodies were being kept in five refrigerated wagons. The militiaman would not reveal his name or rank, but the newspaper’s website published his photograph with the story.

The account of the rebel, a 31-year-old miner from the Torez area, contradicts claims that pro-Russian rebels were not behind the shooting. “On Thursday, our commanders gave us orders to get on the truck with lots of arms and ammunition,” he said. “Maybe 10 minutes earlier, we’d heard a big explosion in the sky. We’d ‘hit a plane of the fascists from Kiev’, they told us. They added that we should be on our guard because at least some of the crew had jumped with parachutes; white objects were seen. Maybe we’d have to fight and capture them.”

But he said his fear turned to horror on arriving at the scene. “With my soldiers I tried to spot parachutes on the ground and the trees. I saw shreds of clothing in a clearing. I approached and saw the body of a little girl, not more than five years old. It was terrible.”

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