“Sickening” footage has emerged of separatist fighters in Ukraine sifting through the belongings of passengers killed on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
The plane, which came down a year ago today killing all 298 people on board, crashed in rebel-held territory in Donetsk after allegedly being shot down.
A video obtained by News Corp Australia shows what is believed to be the rebels’ own record of the site.
They had reportedly been sent on a mission to find Ukrainian pilots believed to have parachuted down from the supposed military aircraft.
Over 17 minutes, the rebels are seen picking over the bodies of dead passengers amid burning wreckage, rifling through their belongings on the ground and tipping out rucksacks to examine their possessions.
Realisation quickly dawns that a commercial airliner has been shot down, with a voice believed to belong to a commander telling someone on the phone: “We’re at the crash site…it’s civilian.”
“There are a lot of bodies, women,” he says, according to a translation by news.com.au. “F***. Passenger plane was f*****.”
Rebels pick through the smoking wreckage searching for the plane's black box, at one point reading out “Australia” from a hang luggage tag and finding the name of a dead passenger.
“Who’s opened a corridor for them to fly over here?” a man’s voice angrily demands in the background as the commander shouts for local residents approaching the site to be sent away.
Facing mounting evidence that the downed plane was a commercial airliner, the rebels speculate that it could be “another” plane than the one they shot down, although there is no record of any other crash on the day.
Analysts have suggested that initial confusion over second crash could have resulted from the spread of debris over 10 square miles in the countryside around Hrabove.
In one shot, a man wearing military fatigues and what appears to be a rebel Donetsk People’s Republic ID can be seen.
The militants seem wary of the filming, with one saying: “I don’t like it if it’s leaked on the internet.”
Julie Bishop, the Australian foreign minister, said the footage was “sickening to watch” and said she was concerned that the evidence had only just emerged a year after the disaster.
“Their grief is inconsolable and the burden of grieving and then seeing this footage will be almost too much to bear,” she told Nine Network.
“It is certainly consistent with the intelligence advice that we received 12 months ago, that Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 had been shot down by a surface-to-air missile.”
Memorials are being held for the victims of the disaster around the world today, including in the Ukrainian village where it came down and in victims' countries including the Netherlands, Australia, Malaysia and Britain.
On the day the Boeing 777 went down, a post attributed to a rebel leader claimed separatists had shot down a Ukrainian military transport plane in Donetsk.
The swiftly-deleted post, accompanied by a video of rising smoke, said: “We warned them - don’t fly in our sky.”
Separatist forces operating around the crash site have since denied any involvement but Russian rebel leader Igor Girkin has been named in a lawsuit seeking $900 million (£575 million) in damages for the families of 18 passengers – six of them British.
The Netherlands is leading the criminal investigation into the disaster and a final report on the cause of the crash is due to be released in October by the Dutch Safety Board.
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