Ukraine Rebels Give MH17 Flight Recorders to Malaysia

An armed man walks past bodybags containing victims of the Boeing 777 Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. EPA/IGOR KOVALENKO

By John Grafilo

KUALA LUMPUR (DPA) — Pro-Russian rebels delivered the flight data and voice recorders of downed passenger plane MH17 to Malaysian officials on Tuesday, a senior government official said.

The two black boxes were handed over to a Malaysian team in Donetsk by pro-Russian separatists, said Khairil Hilmi Mokhtar, leader of Malaysia's special investigation team in Kiev.

"We will take them to the Netherlands before bringing them back home to Malaysia," said Khairil Hilmi, according to Malaysia's state-run Bernama news agency.

The instruments were given to a group of Malaysian officials led by National Security Council member Colonel Mohamed Shukri, a government source in Kuala Lumpur said.

The equipment appeared to be in good condition, the source said.

"Malaysia will keep it for safekeeping temporarily and will eventually hand it to the proper investigating body," he said.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, killing all 298 people aboard. It was suspected to have been shot down by a missile.

Russian Ambassador to Malaysia Lyudmila Vorobyeva said she was convinced the pro-Russian separatists were not capable of shooting down the jetliner, as the guerrillas were not armed with a sophisticated missile system and did not have the technical know-how.

"The BUK missile system is very sophisticated and you need special training to operate it," she told a press conference at the embassy in Kuala Lumpur. "I am convinced that there is no way they (rebels) could have done it."

The delivery of the black boxes occurred after Prime Minister Najib Razak spoke Monday with rebel leader Alexander Borodai, who controls the territory where the plane crashed.

Najib said Borodai agreed to have the human remains from the crash site moved to Kharkiv, where they would be turned over to representatives of the Dutch government.

He also said independent international investigators would be guaranteed safe access to the crash site.