KUALA LUMPUR/KIEV: Pro-Russia rebels today said they have recovered the black boxes from the wreckage of the Malaysian plane blown by a missile over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board, including 100 world-renowned AIDS researchers and activists.
The Ukrainian government and the pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country have blamed each other for the alleged shooting down of the plane yesterday.
Pro-Russian rebels have agreed to give international investigators access to the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17 and allow the recovery of bodies scattered over a vast stretch of farmland.
“Rebel in eastern Ukraine will continue fighting in all areas except for the site of the Malaysian plane crash site,” a rebel commander was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti.
The Boeing 777, carrying 298 people, was en route from Amsterdam to the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, when it crashed yesterday in eastern Ukraine, near the Russian border.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accused “terrorists” of downing the jet, referring to pro-Russian separatists.
“Terrorists have killed almost 300 persons with one shot,” Poroshenko said. “Among them are women, children, citizens of different countries of the world.
However, Russian defense ministry said it had picked up radar unit activity from a Ukrainian-controlled ‘Buk’ missile system on the day the Malaysian airliner crashed.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak today demanded that perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice.
“This is a tragic day in what has already been a tragic year for Malaysia. The flight’s passengers were from many nations but we are all united in grief,” Najib said today.
The plane was on a scheduled flight to Kuala Lumpur and it had not made a distress call. It is still not clear if the jet was shot down purposely or mistakenly.
The flight manifest of the plane indicated that the MH17 had onboard 173 nationals from Netherlands, 44 Malaysians, 28 Australians, 12 Indonesians, 9 from UK, 4 from Germany, 4 from Belgium, 3 from the Philippines, one each from Canada, New Zealand and Hong Kong.
The 15-member Malaysian crew included two ethnic Indians – flight steward Sanjid Singh Sandu and Ms. Rajendran. The nationalities of 18 passengers were still to be verified.
About 100 of those killed in the crash were world- renowned AIDS researchers and activists heading to Australia for a global AIDS conference, reports said.–PTI