KIEV — “We have just shot down a plane. … A plume of smoke is visible.”
The biggest clue so far into who may have shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 might be what Ukrainian officials say are intercepted communications between pro-Russian separatists operating in eastern Ukraine.
The recordings, translated and distributed by Ukrainian officials, begin with an alleged militant informing others that a plane has been shot down.
The communication picks up later, once the alleged separatists reach the scene of the crash.
Here’s a segment of a conversation between an alleged pro-Russian separatist named Major and another identified as Grek, per Ukrainian authorities:
Major: The plane broke into pieces in the air … we have found the first 200 (dead). It’s a civilian.”
Grek: “How are things going there?”
M: “Well, we are 100 percent sure that it was a civilian plane.”
G: “Are there a lot of people?”
M: “F–k! The debris was falling straight into the yards.”
M: “Here are remnants of internal brackets, chairs, bodies.”
G: “Are there any weapons?”
M: “Nothing at all. Civilian belongings, medical scraps, towels, toilet paper.”
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on Friday blasted the “terrorists” he blamed for shooting down the plane a day earlier, with 298 people aboard.
But Lt. Col. Rick Francona, a military analyst, said he would not be surprised if Ukrainians were able to monitor the communications of the separatists.”Ukrainian intelligence, they’re pretty good in their own territory,” he said Friday.
In a final segment of the alleged intercepted phone calls, an unidentified militant allegedly speaks with a Russian Cossack, Mykola Kozitsyn.Militant: “On TV, they say like it is a Ukrainian An-26, a transport plane. But the writing says ‘Malaysia Airlines.’ What was it doing over the territory of Ukraine?”
Kozitsyn: “Well then it was bringing spies. Why the hell were they flying? This is war going on.”
While these recordings have garnered worldwide attention, they are not the first alleged intercepted calls that Ukrainian officials have released. Others were released earlier this month.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said the phone calls were intercepted at the same time that the plane was shot down.
Prime Minister Yatsenyuk called for international support “to bring to justice all these bastards who committed this international crime.”
Russia has not directly responded to the alleged content of the audio, but President Vladimir Putin has blamed Ukraine for the crash. “This tragedy would not have happened if there had been peace on that land, or in any case, if military operations in southeastern Ukraine had not been renewed,” he said.