Update: Rebels to hand Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 black box over to Malaysia government

Europe weighs Russian sanctions, scammers make fake Facebook pages of victims, and looting reported at crash site

By Sarah Gray
July 21, 2014 9:30PM (UTC)
main article image
Ukrainian Emergency workers carry a stretcher with a victim's body in a bag as pro-Russian fighters stand in guard at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, July 20, 2014. Rebels in eastern Ukraine took control Sunday of the bodies recovered from downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, and the U.S. and European leaders demanded that Russian President Vladimir Putin make sure rebels give international investigators full access to the crash site. ((AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka))


The tragic downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 last Thursday, and the aftermath -- a crash site in rebel territory -- are sadly tangled in a larger global conflict. At its heart, 298 people -- 283 passengers, and 15 flight crew -- perished after a surface-to-air missile hit the plane, which was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.


In a broader sense, the plane -- whose flight list recorded 192 Dutch passengers, 44 Malaysians, 27 Australians, 10 Britons, four Belgians, four Germans, one Canadian, three from the Philippines, one from New Zealand and one American -- ended up in an area of Ukraine near the Russian border controlled by pro-Russian separatists. The remains of the Boeing 777 are only 50 miles from the city of Donetsk, where fighting between the rebels and Ukrainian government has begun again.

What we don't have exact clarity on is who shot down the plane, although evidence points to the rebels, and President Obama even mentioned evidence in a speech several days ago.. Here's what is known:

  • Two Dutch forensic experts have made it to the scene on Monday, after standoffs with rebels and being denied access to the full crash site, according to the New York Times. The Times also reports that Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Volodymr Groysman stated that rebels were finally allowing refrigerated train cars, with 282 of the bodies collected, to move from Torez to Kharkiv -- outside of rebel control.
  • In a grisly twist, the crash site has turned into looting grounds: Not only have journalists searched through the victims' belongings (and apologized), but there have been reports of looters, according to Mashable.  Anton Gerashchenko, a member of the Ukrainian parliament, wrote on his Facebook page that "Just now I have received information that terrorists – death-hunters were collecting not only cash money and jewelry of the crashed Boeing died passengers but also the credit cards of the victims." Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte called the treatment of the bodies and crash site "utterly disgusting," and the Dutch Banking Association said that if credit cards were tampered with, next of kin would be compensated. There have also been reports of at least five scam Facebook pages of Australian victims, which are used monetize the tragedy.
  • World leaders respond to the tragedy:

  • Updated: The black box has been retrieved, according to the below video. Malaysia Prime Minister, Najib Razak, stated that the rebels have agreed to hand over the recording device to Malaysia government officials in Donetsk.*

  • European leaders are discussing possible new sanctions on Russia. The New York Times reports that pressure is being applied to President Vladimir Putin, especially after this weekend's standoffs over access to the crash site. "Russia needs to know that action will follow if there isn't a radical change in the way they behave," British Prime Minister David Cameron said, according to the Times. "The EU will be ready to take further steps." Cameron spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande about the sanctions, which could hit industrial goods, the Times reports.
  • They're not the only ones putting pressure on Russia. “It is clear that Russia must use her influence on the separatists to improve the situation on the ground,” said Prime Minister Rutte, Reuters reports. “If in the coming days access to the disaster area remains inadequate, then all political, economic and financial options are on the table against those who are directly or indirectly responsible for that.”

*A previous version of this article stated that the black box had been handed over; it has not yet been given to the Malaysia government, but has only been agreed to be handed over.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email sgray@salon.com.

MORE FROM Sarah Gray

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Facebook Malaysia Airlines Flight Mh17 Plane Crash Russia The Netherlands Ukraine Ukrainian Rebels Video