Under international law, MH17’s black boxes must stay in Ukraine, officials say

An armed pro-Russian separatist stands at a site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash in the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014. — Reuters pic
An armed pro-Russian separatist stands at a site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash in the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014. — Reuters pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, July 18 — International law prohibits the removal of MH17’s flight recorders from Ukraine, where the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) commercial jet was reported to have been shot down, a report said.

According to The Kyiv Post, Ukraine’s English language newspaper, the eastern European country’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that it would be illegal for any party to remove the crucial black boxes from Ukrainian territory.

“Their transfer from the country would be unlawful,” the report said.

Earlier this evening, a Ukrainian ministerial official claimed that intelligence sources believe that one of Flight MH17’s data recorders will be handed over by separatists in the strife-torn Donetsk region across the border to Russia’s federal security service (FSB).

“According to the latest information from our intelligence, the ‘black boxes’ obtained by the terrorists at the scene will be handed over to their supervisors from FSB today on one of the border crossing check-points of Luhansk,” Anton Gerashchenko, who is an adviser to Ukraine’s interior ministry, wrote in a Facebook post.

“This would be the one of the many brazen acts of violation of international treaties in the sphere of aircraft accidents investigation by Putin,” Gerashchenko added, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine and Russia have been trading blame over which nation is responsible for the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight by what US officials say is a Russian-designed air defence missile.

Conflicting reports are also surfacing over which side is currently in possession of the black boxes from the plane, with each opposing faction said to be in possession of one of the plane’s two data recorders.

Ukraine earlier released what it said was intercepted communications between Russian intelligence and pro-Moscow Ukrainian separatists discussing the shooting of a civilian aircraft in the moments after MH17 disappeared from radar late last night.

The video and its accompanying transcript have yet to be independently verified.

Earlier today, Putin said Ukraine “bears responsibility” for MH17 due to the plane going down in its territory.

“This tragedy would not have happened if there was peace in the country, if military operations had not resumed in the south-east of Ukraine,” he was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

World leaders earlier demanded the United Nations lead an independent investigation into the shooting of MH17, with the Security Council due to meet today.

MH17 was believed to have been shot down over eastern Ukraine by pro-Russian militants yesterday, killing all 298 people aboard, a Ukrainian interior ministry official said.

MAS said air traffic controllers lost contact with MH17 as it flew over eastern Ukraine towards the Russian border, bound for Asia with 283 passengers and 15 crew aboard.

This is the second air disaster involving a Malaysia Airlines plane in the space of five months, after the Beijing-bound MH370 disappeared with 239 people on board on March 8.

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