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Kerry: Evidence mounts pointing blame at pro-Russian separatists for MH17

July 20, 2014 at 6:18 PM EDT
Pro-Russian separatist leader Alexander Borodai said today that critical evidence has been recovered from the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that is believed to have been shot down Thursday near the Ukrainian-Russian border. Secretary of State John Kerry said there was overwhelming evidence that pro-Russian separatists shot down the plane.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Good evening, thanks for joining us. A pro-Russian separatist leader said today that critical evidence has been recovered from the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that evidently was shot down Thursday near the Ukrainian-Russian border. Two hundred and ninety-eight people died.

ALEKSANDER BORODAI: “I can tell you that as of today, we have found some of the technical details of this plane, which we suppose can be those so-called black boxes.”

HARI SREENIVASAN: Secretary of State John Kerry said today that the United States has what he called an enormous amount of evidence that pro-Russian separatists shot down the plane with a Russian-made surface-to-air missile.

SECRETARY KERRY: “We have intercepted voices that have been documented by our people through intelligence as being separatists who are talking to each other about the shoot-down and we know that we have a video now of a transporter removing and SA-11 system back into Russia and it shows a missing missile or so. So there’s enormous amount of evidence.”

HARI SREENIVASAN: For more, we are joined now via Skype from Ukraine by Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times. So the evidence that Secretary Kerry is pointing to, is this the same as what the Ukrainian intelligence officials have been talking about?

SABRINA TAVERNISE: No, it appears to be the same evidence that we’ve been hearing from the Ukrainians. There’s been a lot of, there have been YouTube clips, there have been photographs, there have been a number of things that the Americans and the Ukrainians point to as sort of evidence of who actually shot this thing down.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So there are also lots of people interested in the black box. Who has it now? The black box flight recorders, where does it go?

SABRINA TAVERNISE: So, yes there’s been a lot of discussion about the black box. Honestly, the scene of the crash is at this point kind of an incredible place. I mean, it’s very chaotic, it has sort of different groups of volunteers and kind of motley local citizens and essentially they have no, they just don’t have enough manpower or expertise or people to sort of do it. So it’s been very slow and quite incompetent and the fact that they haven’t found the black boxes or I suppose now that they’re sort of saying that they have found them – it’s all very chaotic and unclear – but it isn’t particularly surprising, given the absolute feeble recovery effort.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So the Dutch prime minister was making a statement saying that he shocked and he’s disgusted by how the bodies have been treated. You went to one of the areas where a lot of these bodies are stored now in refrigerated rail cars. Where are those bodies going to go, and who’s going to look after them?

SABRINA TAVERNISE: You know, there in these train cars in this sort of very gritty, fly-blown city called Torez, it’s a coal-mining town. What the Kiev government says is that the rebels have actually blocked their exits, so that the rebels aren’t letting the train that they’re on leave. And what the rebels say is that they want to release the bodies to international representatives who would claim them. They’re telling all of the journalists who call the international representatives to Donetsk so they can claim the bodies. Very unclear to what extent both sides are being disingenuous in this.

HARI SREENIVASAN: What sort of access do the international observers have today?

SABRINA TAVERNISE: The international observers spent quite a bit of time at the crash site today. They were taking pictures, walking the perimeter. They had a large security detail. There were also four representatives from Kiev. Ukrainian government representatives taking photographs and walking around in the site of the wreckage, so there was quite a big sort of foreign, if you will, presence at the crash site that didn’t appear to be hindered.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times. Thanks so much.