Tag Archives: Donetsk People’s Republic

Intercepted Phone Calls Show Russia Directing Separatists to Seize MH17’s Black Boxes

The Ukrainian government has released recordings of alleged phone calls between pro-Russian separatists discussing the fate of Malaysian Flight MH17’s black boxes.

Ukrainian security officials released the tapes on Sunday, claiming that they proved Russia had directed the separatists to find and hide the black boxes.

The call is between Alexander Khodakovsky, leader of the Vostok (East) battalion of pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine and one of his men (“Oleksiy”) at the crash site. You can listen to the conversations below:

In the first of the recordings, Khodakovsky urges Oleksiy to find MH17’s black boxes, saying,

“Do it really quick, urgently. Moscow is asking where the boxes are… [they] must be under our control”.

In a second call less than an hour later, Khodakovsky talks to another man at the crash site (“Andriy”), telling him,

“I have a request for you. It is not my request. Our friends from high above are very much interested in the fate of the black boxes. I mean people from Moscow.”

He also tells Andriy to,

“Try to take everything that you find so that it doesn’t get into somebody else’s hands.”

Around the time that the recordings were released, Reuters released footage of what appears to be the black boxes being removed from the crash site by the separatists:

Earlier this morning, the news service Interfax reported that rebel Russian separatists in Ukraine had handed over the black boxes to Russia’s Interstate Aviation Committee.

Andrei Purgin is the self-proclaimed deputy prime minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the separatist government in the rebel-held city of Donetsk. Purgin told Interfax:

“Of course, we most likely will give them [the black boxes] to the Interstate Aviation Committee, to Moscow. High-level experts, who will be able to determine exactly the reason of the catastrophe, work there.”

So it seems that the black boxes are on their way to Moscow, if they’re not there already. This will definitely raise a lot more suspicion about Russia’s involvement in the MH17 tragedy.

But, for the sake of objectivity, it is definitely worth noting that these tapes have not been independently verified yet, and are being released by the Ukrainian government, who has every reason in the world to want Russia to be responsible for the tragedy.

That doesn’t mean I believe the tapes are fabricated- it’s just a reminder to tread carefully when trying to make sense of such a complex issue.

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The Russian Government Just Edited the Wikipedia Page for the Plane Shot Down In Ukraine

On Thursday, Malaysian flight MH17,  headed to Amsterdam from Kuala Lampur, was shot down by a surface to air missile over Ukraine. All 298 of the passengers were killed.

As information started to come out, it became apparent that the missile that took the plane down came from an area controlled by pro-Russian separatist forces in Eastern Ukraine.

People walk through the debris of MH17 near the village of Grabovo (Photo: AP)

These pro-Russian groups refused to recognize the new government in Kiev after the Ukrainian revolution and have established strongholds in a number of cities on Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia.

Although the separatists have denied responsibility, much of the evidence points to them. Also, the fact that they are denying investigators access to the crash site while looters steal cash, credit cards and jewelry from the victims doesn’t seem to support their cries of innocence.

It is no secret that the separatist groups have the support of Russia, and many people think Russia holds some of the responsibility for the disaster. The main reason for this is that the missile used, an SA-11, requires a very complex weapons system operated by highly-trained personnel.

Some info about the missile system most likely responsible for taking down MH17. Click to enlarge

Yesterday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby weighed in:

“It strains credulity to think that they could do this without some measure of Russian support and assistance. It is a sophisticated system.”

Then, yesterday evening, a Twitter bot added another piece to the story.

The bot, @RuGovEdits is basically a Russian version of @CongressEdits– it informs people any time a Wikipedia page has been edited by a Russian government IP address.

The Russian Twitter bot announced yesterday that the Wikipedia page for flight MH17 had been edited by the Russian government. What was changed?

Well, the original submission stated the plane was shot down by,

“…by terrorists of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic with Buk system missiles, which the terrorists received from the Russian Federation.”

The new edited version says that,

“…the plane [flight MH17] was shot down by Ukrainian soldiers.

Russia has maintained that they were not involved in the tragedy and that the flight was brought down by Ukrainian forces, but this new revelation definitely raises questions about the truth of that statement.

(h/t Gizmodo)

Ukrainian Forces Seize 100,000 Ballots Pre-Marked “Yes” For Separatist Referendum

The situation in Ukraine has been all over the place lately, with conflicting reports constantly coming from both sides, so I don’t blame you if you haven’t been keeping up with it.

There have been a few recent developments, however, that are worth noting. Since the overthrow of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and Russia’s subsequent annexation of the Crimean peninsula, there has been significant unrest in Ukraine’s eastern cities, specifically in the coal-mining region of Donetsk.

A number of pro-Russian separatist groups have emerged in eastern Ukraine since all the tension began. Though they typically wear uniforms that bear no particular flag and claim to be Ukrainian, many people believe that a significant portion of these groups are actually covert Russian forces.

Separatist forces seize Donetsk’s main administrative building on April 7th (Photo: AFP)

The Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) is the most organized and most visible of these groups. They recently announced that they would be holding a referendum in the Donetsk region and the neighboring Luhansk region on May 11th.

Originally, the referendum was to be a vote on whether or not to legitimize the new Ukrainian government. Then, members of the DPR said people would be asked whether they wanted to leave Ukraine and join Russia, “Crimea-style”.

Click to enlarge

As of May 8 however, the referendum simply asks, “Do you support the act of state self-reliance of the Donetsk People’s Republic?”. DPR representatives have said that a follow-up referendum will be held on the 18th to decide on whether or not to join Russia.

The Ukrainian government and the international community have denounced the referendum (as well as the DPR’s self-proclaimed state) to be illegitimate and illegal.

However, separatist forces are in control of a number of towns and cities in the region, and have commandeered 80 local schools to hold the votes (the feature image for this story was taken at one of these schools), so local governments have been forced to comply.

Separatist forces patrol the streets of Donetsk waving both a Russian flag and one that reads, “People’s volunteer corps of Donetsk” (Photo: AFP)

Then earlier today, the Kiev Post reported that Ukrainian anti-terror forces in Slaviansk had captured a small group of armed separatists who had 100,000 ballots for tomorrow’s referendum that were pre-marked “yes”. The Kiev Post called the group “Kremlin-backed rebels”, but the publication is known to be supportive of the new government in Kiev so it’s possible that their report may be a bit sensationalized.

Check out the original report from the Kiev Post here. Read more from the BBC about the upcoming referendum here.

Feature image courtesy of AFP