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'Tapped calls prove rebels plotted to hide black box'
Published:  Jul 21, 2014 5:21 PM
Updated: 5:51 PM

MH17 Ukrainian intelligence services have released another set of intercepted phone conversations, claiming it to be rebel leaders plotting to hide the black boxes of MH17.

The two-minute tape was released by the Security Services of Ukraine (SBU) yesterday, and purportedly comprises three phone conversations between rebel leader Khodakovskyi Oleksandr Serhiyovych and two separatist rescue workers identified only as Oleksiy and Andriy.

"I have a request for you,” Khodakovskyi supposedly told Andriy in the second phone call at 6.10pm (11.10pm Malaysian time).

"Our friends from high above are very much interested in the fate of the black boxes. I mean people from Moscow. There are two items – Khmuryi, Strelok’s head of intelligence, has one.

"Please, cooperate with the Ministry of Emergency. All that you find must not come into somebody else’s hands," Khodakovskyi says.

Khodakovskyi is the Vostok Battalion commander of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).

The conversations reportedly took place on the evening of July 18 – a day after MH17 was shot down.

However, the authenticity of the recordings could not be independently verified at this point. The recordings are published on SBU’s YouTube account, with English subtitles.

Embroiled in a proxy war between Russia and the West, the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatist forces in Donetsk have accused each other of being responsible for shooting down MH17.

In addition, Ukrainian authorities had previously accused DPR of tampering with evidence at the crash site.

In the intercepted phone calls, Oleksiy tells Khodakovskyi  in the first phone conversation that the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) officials have reached the crash site, while Khodakovskyi then warns Andriy that the observers and other officials would return.

OSCE had complained to the press on the same day that it was barred from entering the MH17 crash site.

The separatists also appeared to be unfamiliar with the appearance of the black boxes from the aircraft, which are actually painted bright orange despite its name.

At the last phone call at 7pm local time (12 midnight in Malaysia), Oleksiy asks if the black boxes looked like “some orange small barrels”, but Khodakovskyi says he does not know.

Oleksiy: “Okay. We found something. This is just a box – satellite navigation block. It is written on it.”

Khodakovskyi: “Hide it anyway. Who knows how they are disguised.”

Oleksiy: “Okay, I got it.”

Meanwhile, The Australian quoted Khodakovskyi’s aide today as saying that the leader has not heard of the recording, but denied hindering the work of the OSCE.

Reiterating the DPR’s claim that the shooting down of MH17 was a Ukrainian government ploy to discredit the separatist group, the aide, Alan Manaev, said, “Of course, we want an objective investigation.”

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