TORONTO – Ukraine released what it claims to be intercepted phone calls between pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists and Russian officials admitting to have shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, killing all 298 on board.
The Ukrainian Security Service released the recordings Thursday on its YouTube page, claiming they’re intercepted calls between rebel commander Igor Bezler and a Russian intelligence officer.
Global News cannot independently verify the identities of the speakers in the audio recordings.
“We have just shot down a plane,” says the man Ukrainian authorities identify as Bezler. “That was Miner’s group. It fell down outside Enakievo.”
The rebel commander was purportedly speaking to Russian Colonel Vasily Geranin.
In a second recording, allegedly between rebels, two men are heard discussing the downed plane and confirming it was a civilian aircraft.
“The plane broke into pieces in the air … it’s a civilian,” a man dubbed as “Major” purportedly said. “We are 100 per cent sure that it was a civilian plane.”
In a third recording, allegedly between a rebel fighter and a commanding officer, the men discuss the scene of the crash site.
“It fell down outside Grabovo, there is a whole lot of bodies of women and children … 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?” the alleged fighter said.
Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Donetsk rebel spokesperson Sergey Kavtaradze as denying that the intercepted phone conversations are genuine.
Both Ukraine and Russia have denied shooting at any airborne targets.
Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed Ukraine for the crash, saying it was responsible for the unrest in its Russian-speaking eastern regions. But he stopped short of accusing Ukraine of shooting the plane down and did not address the key question of whether Russia itself gave the rebels such a powerful missile.
Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of supporting the rebels, a charge Moscow denies.
Flight MH17 dropped from radar Thursday afternoon over Ukrainian airspace, en route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam.
On Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama called the downing of Flight MH17 a “global tragedy” and vowed to investigate what exactly happened.
Obama said evidence so far indicates that plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile from an area controlled by Russian-backed separatists. He noted it wasn’t the first time the separatists had shot down planes in the region, adding that a “steady flow of support from Russia” had included heavy weapons and anti-aircraft weapons.
He called for an immediate cease-fire to allow for a full investigation.
With files from Associated Press