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'Missile launcher crew in Ukrainian uniforms'
Published:  Jul 23, 2014 8:41 AM
Updated: Jul 24, 2014 2:02 AM

Day 6 of the MH17 tragedy

Latest developments

  • Bodies arrive in Eindhoven


  • Ukrainian jet fighters shot down 17 km from crash site

  • 'Missile launcher crew in Ukrainian uniforms'

  • OSCE: No evidence of missile strike found yet

  • Malaysian Parliament holds special session

  • Identification of bodies could take months

  • Only 200 bodies found, contrary to reports

  • Black boxes to be handed to UK for analysis
  • Follow us as we bring the latest updates and coverage on Flight MH17:

    Bodies arrive in Eindhoven

    10.20pm: The Dutch plane carrying the remains of those killed on MH17 arrive in Eindhoven.

    The bodies were received by Netherlands' King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, local press report.

    Earlier The Ausrtralian reports that about 1,000 relatives of those on board were waiting at the airport for the loved ones' remains.

    Also present to receive the bodies was Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

    "Twenty hearses will pull up in between the two planes and the first 10 bodies from each plane will be loaded into the hearses.

    "Then the process will be repeated until all bodies are on board a hearse driven by military.

    "The bodies will then be taken north to Hilversum, Netherlands - an hour and a half's drive away - where the extensive forensic process of identifying bodies can begin," The Australian reports.

    9.15pm: Two Ukrainian fighters have been shot down by separatist forces just 25kilometres away from MH17’s crash site, says Ukrainian military spokesperson Oleksiy Dmytrashkivsky.


    “Two Sukhoi Ukrainian fighter jets have been shot down. The fate of the pilots is not known,” he tells the AFP .


    However, a second spokesperson Vladislav Seleznev reportedly told the wire service that the Su-25 fighters were actually shot down near Dmytrivka village in south Lugansk, some 100kilometres away, and that the pilots managed to eject from their aircraft.

    Rebels thought Ukrainian plane downed


    Pro-Russian rebels had rushed to MH17’s crash site thinking that they had shot down an Ukrainian aircraft, according to a purported account from one of the first militiamen at the scene.


    The Italian paper Corriere della Sera says the rebel fighter and about ten of his comrades - who were under orders not to give their names - were told by their superiors to go to the scene of the crash but beware of Ukrainian pilots who may have bailed out.


    “We’ve just shot down one of the Kiev fascists’ planes,” he claims he was told, but instead of finding parachutes, he says had found the remains of a girl no more than five years of age. His unit has been stationed at the site ever since.


    Nevertheless, the report states the rebels showed no remorse and still believed in the Russian version of the events.


    “Obviously, it wasn’t us that shot the jet down. We haven’t got missiles that reach that high. This crime was committed by the bandits who take orders from the Kiev government. One of their fighters could easily have shot down the Malaysian Airlines plane”, they reportedly claim.


    The Ukrainian government and the pro-Russia rebels have been blaming each other for the shooting ever since it took place, backed by their respective allies.

    Journo says 'sorry' for questioning English skills

    6.00pm: Wall Street Journal Moscow correspondent Paul Sonne apologises for his tweet yesterday questioning the English proficiency of the Malaysian delegation in Ukraine.


    "Doubly heartbroken I've upset Malaysians at a time like this. I was never generalising about Malaysians’ English.


    "Tweet was dumb, I'm sorry," he posted on the microblogging site.


    Yesterday, he posted a tweet saying he was "pretty sure the Malaysian delegation's English wasn't very good" and wondered what the delegation had signed, noting that the documents were in English and Russian.


    'Missile launcher crew in Ukrainian uniforms'

    5.45pm: Online news portal ConsortiumNews 's editor Robert Parry claims that US intelligence services do have satellite images of the Buk missile launcher that shot down MH17, but it was in the control of personnel dressed in what appeared to be Ukrainian army uniforms.


    "The source said CIA analysts were still not ruling out the possibility that the troops were actually eastern Ukrainian rebels in similar uniforms but the initial assessment was that the troops were Ukrainian soldiers.


    "There also was the suggestion that the soldiers involved were undisciplined and possibly drunk, since the imagery showed what looked like beer bottles scattered around the site," the report said.


    Parry, an award-winning journalist, also lambasted the American mainstream media for pressing the US government for hard evidence to back its claims of Russian involvement in shooting down MH17.


    Since the incident, the Ukrainian government and its allies, including the US, had accused pro-Russian separatists of shooting down MH17 with Russian-supplied weapons and training, while both the rebels and Russian pointed fingers back at the Kiev government.

    Villagers hold memorial service for MH17 dead


    The villagers in Donetsk, both young and old, gather for a memorial service for those who perished on board MH17.

    BBC News reports that the local Eastern Orthodox Christian community also grieved at the tragedy and is left traumatised after bits of a plane and bodies suddenly fell from the sky last week.

    "We want to testify to the world that we are not terrorists," a bearded priest in black and white robe is heard saying telling BBC reporter Natalia Antelava in the video.

    "We symphathise with the whole world over what happened here. It was terrible to see pieces of aeroplane dropping on our heads. And it was horrible when dead bodies fell on people."

    An elderly lady in a head scarf is seen holding a dozen pink and red roses and laments: "I pity you. I pity me, that's why I am crying.

    "Why kill peaceful people? It's always peaceful people who are killed," she says.

    Bodies still subject to 'heat and animals'

    4pm: Australian PM Tony Abbott expresses “serious concern” over recovery of bodies from the crash site, which he says has been handled unprofessionally to date.

    So far, he says knew only of two Australian bodies sent to Netherlands this afternoon.

    “It is possible that some bodies are still out there in the European summer, subject to the ravages of heat and animals, ” he tells reporters in Canberra.

    Meanwhile, BBC News reports that about 50 coffins were laid out at the airport on Wednesday morning in preparation for the first flight to Amsterdam, where a simple tribute was held for the deceased.

    3.50pm: Malaysia Airlines earned kudos from Wall Street Journal (WSJ) for its "assured and rapid response" to MH17 tragedy versus its response to the MH370 crisis, which it says augurs well for the troubled company's branding.

    "The airline's public communications during the current crisis have been accurate and centralised, compared with the confusion and misinformation that prevailed in March," WSJ reports.

    This reflected in steady business as MAS reportedly said it hasn't seen a surge in ticket cancellations or requests for refunds after MH17 crashed despite its offer for full refunds since Saturday.       

    WSJ survey indicated that many frequent flyers would have no qualms getting on the next MAS flight, especially if the price is right.

    Dutch royal family, PM to greet plane ferrying remains

    3.10pm: BBC reports that the first bodies are expected to arrive at Eindhoven in the Netherlands about 2pm local time (8pm in Malaysia).

    Members of the Dutch royal family and Prime Minister Mark Rutte are to meet the plane.

    3pm: Former United States president Bill Clinton calls for strength following the downing of MH17, declaring that those responsible, or who had provided the means to do it, sided with a brutal vision of the world, AFP reports.

    Speaking at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, Australia, Clinton also pays tribute to six AIDS campaigners, including prominent Dutch researcher, Joep Lange, who were on board the ill-fated flight.

    He says the argument that the loss of lives may have been unintended is irrelevant.

    Malaysian team: No parts of plane missing

    2:20pm: According to The Star Online , Malaysia’s three-man team inspecting the crash site observed that part of the Boeing jetliner’s massive wings had melted as a result of intense heat.

    It quotes Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) spokesperson for the Special Monitoring mission to Ukraine, Michael Bociurkiw, as saying the wings melted as they were made of aluminium.

    Bociurkiw reportedly tells reporters in Donetsk that the team also did not notice any major parts of the plane missing from the crash site.

    He says the OSCE was yet to find any evidence of a missile strike at the site.

    However, he adds, the team did notice smaller body parts which had yet to be removed.

    With MH17, MH370 not forgotten

    1.45pm: While the head of the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC), retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston ( right ), has been called away to head Australia’s MH17 recovery operations in Ukraine, this does not mean the search for missing Flight MH370 is getting any less attention.

    "Australia owes it to the families of all of those on board MH370, the travelling public and indeed the wider world to solve this mystery.

    “Deputy coordinator Judith Zielke will oversee the operations of the JACC,"  Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss says in a press statement.

    The Beijing-bound MAS jetliner went missing on March 8 and is believed to be lying in the south Indian Ocean, off Perth.

    A new search phase to probe the ocean floor is likely to start in early September and take up to 12 months to complete, Truss says

    1.30pm: Australian PM Tony Abbott adds an online "condolence book" to his official website for those who wish to send their sympathies to the next-of-kin of Australians who perished on Flight MH17.

    "We all mourn the tragic loss of Flight MH17 - an online condolence book is available here ," Abbot tweets.

    Those who wish the PM to attend or send a message of condolence for memorial services to be held in recognition of those who lost their lives in the MH17 tragedy can also make the request via a special email, [email protected].

    Malaysian tourism to be affected?

    1.14pm: The twin airline disasters may dampen Malaysia's hopes of drawing in a record number of tourists this year under the Visit Malaysia Year 2014 campaign, reports AFP .

    AFP quotes National Taiwan University researcher Bridget Welsh as saying that although the MH17 tragedy may not raise as many questions about Malaysia's competency and governance as MH370 did, it would still impact travel plans.

    "This said, Malaysia Airlines and travel to Malaysia will be affected outside of Malaysia. The effects will not be as serious as MH370 but overall negative," Welsh said.

    The article also quotes a China travel agent saying that MH17 had led to a "large number" of cancellations of travel to Malaysia "because a lot of tourists no longer trust MAS safety".

    1pm: Athletes at the 20th Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, observed a minute of silence during the flag-raising ceremony to welcome the Malaysian contingent yesterday.

    "Amidst a lively performance by the National Youth Theatre dancers to greet the arrival of guests from Cyprus, Mozambique, Niue and Malaysia – the mood turned sombre when the announcement was made to observe a minute’s silence in remembrance of the victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17,” The Star reported on the event.

    The national flag was flown at half mast as Negaraku was sung.

    Najib turns 61

    12.45pm: As Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak attends the special parliamentary session on MH17, well-wishers are pouring in to greet him on his birthday.

    "I want to wish selamat hari jadi (happy birthday) to Prime Minister Najib Razak. Thank you for spending it on the MH17 tragedy, for the nation. Respect, sir," tweets national badminton player Lee Chong Wei.

    Today is Najib's 61st birthday.

    Read the live updates on the Parliament proceedings here .

    10.50am: Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin joins the chorus of those giving premier Najib Abdul Razak a pat in the back for securing Flight MH17 black boxes and crash victims’ remains in a deal made directly with eastern Ukraine separatist leader Alexander Borodai.

    "We are grateful for the initiative of PM Najib Abdul Razak ( left ), as the head of government in engaging directly with Alexander Borodai.

    "The effort has paid off and all we want now is for the bodies of the victims to be returned home with dignity to enable us to handle properly according to their respective faiths," Muhyiddin is reported saying by The Star .

    He also expects Malaysians to have only a moderate Hari Raya celebration this year, as a mark of respect for the victims.

    Russia to 'influence' separatists to cooperate

    10.45am: Russian president Vladimir Putin pledges to wield his influence over the pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine to cooperate in the MH17 probe, in what Reuters reports as a rare acknowledgment from the superpower that it has such an influence.

    "We are being called on to use our influence with the separatists in southeastern Ukraine. We of course will do everything in our power but that is not nearly enough…

    "Ultimately, there is a need to call on the authorities in Kiev to respect basic norms of decency, and at least for a short time implement a ceasefire," Putin is quoted saying, urging Western governments to use their influence on Kiev as well.

    Parliament convenes special session

    10.07am: Parliament convenes a special sitting on the MH17 tragedy. Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia, in representing all the parliamentarians, starts by expressing his condolences to the families of the crash victims.

    All MPs rise as a prayer is read out.

    Read the live updates from the proceeding here .

    MH17 deal was Najib's 'project'

    9.50am: The negotiations that led to MH17’s black boxes and the remains of the passengers and crew being handed over had been “the prime minister’s project” known only by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his closest confidants, says Reuters .

    According to the report, Najib was working through intermediaries to initiate contact the leader of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk Alexander Borodai, and had at least one phone conversation with him via a translator.

    "He (Najib) was the main player and he kept this within a very, very, very tight circle. Even some of his closest advisers were not part of this circle, and were surprised by this deal,” an unnamed source is quoted saying.

    The report said in return for Malaysia’s demands, separatist leaders wanted a signed document acknowledging that the black box had not been tampered with.

    Caribbean company files for MH17, MH370 trademark

    8.50am: A company in Belize has filed trademark applications for the terms ‘MH17' and ‘MH370', technology news website Digital News Asia (DNA) reports.

    It says Seyefull Investments Limited submitted the application on MH17 the very day the flight was shot down on July 17, while the application for MH370 was filed on May 2.

    “The scope of usages listed within both applications is wide ranging: From conferences, exhibitions and competitions; to education and instruction, and entertainment services,” the report says, citing publically-available documents.

    If approved, it will allow the company to bar people for using the term for these purposes, or seek payment from them for using the term.

    The report also quotes an unnamed trademark industry observer saying such applications of words related to current affairs are "fairly common, but also fairly pointless" because it usually gets rejected, leads to bad public relations.

    However, Malaysian Airlines appeared to have filed trademark applications for MH370 and MH17 as well, both in July and later than the Seyefull application.

    "I do not know why (Malaysia Airlines) filed, but it may have been alerted by the company's application or is trying to block others from registering the mark," intellectual property lawyer Foong Cheng Leong is quoted saying.

    Only 200 bodies found so far

    8.25am: Dutch forensic officials say only 200 bodies out of 298 MH17 victims have been found so far, not some 280 as previously reported.

    Speaking in the Ukrainian government-held city of Kharkiv, forensics expert Jan Tuinder says this is based on the count by a person who was present when the refrigerated train transporting the bodies was being loaded.

    He tells the BBC the number, however, could increase when his team goes through the bodies.

    "We will not leave until (all) remains have left this country so we will have to go on and bargain again with the people over there," the BBC quotes him as saying.

    The report also says the bodies will be flown from Kharkiv to Eindhoven, the Netherlands today (not Amsterdam, as previously reported), and then taken to a facility in Hilversum for identification – which could take several months to complete.

    Meanwhile, the Interpol will carry out preliminary examinations on the bodies first before the bodies leave Kharkiv.

    8am: The Dutch-led international investigation team decides to allow the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) to perform forensic analysis of MH17’s black boxes.

    "It is normal procedure for black boxes to be sent for analysis to the nearest laboratory authorised by the International Civil Aviation Association (ICAO).

    "The black boxes will therefore be flown to Farnborough, UK, accompanied by Malaysian experts and other members of the international investigation team," says Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai in a statement.

    Meanwhile, Bernama quotes his deputy, Aziz Kaprawi, as saying the black boxes must be opened and analysed immediately in line with ICAO’s regulations.

    "There are several labs around the world which can analyse black box data and I think the nearest one is in the United Kingdom,” he says in the report yesterday, adding that bringing it back to Malaysia would be in contravention to the regulations.

    According to the BBC , there are only two countries in Europe that are equipped to handled the black boxes: the UK, and France.


    • Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 with 298 people on board crashed in eastern Ukraine at around 10.15pm on July 17 (Malaysian time), near the Ukraine-Russia border. The Boeing 777-200 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and was due to arrive at 6am the next day.


  • A proxy war is taking place in the area pitting the Western-backed Ukraine government against Ukrainian separatists supported by Russia. It is said to be the worst crisis between the West and the former Soviet republic since the Cold War.     
  • US says it is convinced the aircraft was shot down by a surface-to-air missile from territory controlled by Russian-backed Ukrainian rebels.

  • Russian president Vladimir Putin has blamed the tragedy on the Ukraine government for prolonging the war against the separatists.

  • Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak says Malaysia will not assign blame until there is concrete evidence but wants "swift justice" against the perpetrators.
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