An Italian newspaper has reported the shocking admission by a pro-Russian militant that his unit had shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 last Thursday.
Corriere della Sera reported today an interview with the militant who had unabashedly said pro-Russian forces mistook the passenger plane for a Ukrainian military one.
The report continued with the militant saying that he and his fellow unit members were told to prepare to engage with Ukrainian forces, who would have bailed out of the suspected military aircraft, once they reached the ground.
“On Thursday afternoon, our commanders ordered us to get into the lorries with our weapons and plenty of ammunition. Perhaps 10 minutes earlier, there had been a huge explosion in the sky.
“‘We’ve just shot down one of the Kiev Fascists’ planes’, they told us, warning us to take care because at least some of the crew had reportedly bailed out,” the militant told the Italian daily during an interview at the Torez railway station where the train containing the remains of flight MH17’s victims had earlier departed for Kharkiv.
“My men and I were looking for parachutes on the ground and in the trees. All of a sudden, I saw scraps of material in a clearing.
“Underneath, I found the body of a little girl, who can’t have been more than five. She was lying face down. It was awful. That was when I realised it was a civilian plane. Not a military one,” he was quoted as saying in the interview.
While refusing to give his name and rank, the 31-year-old militant said he was a member of the Oplot paramilitary unit, which, according to Corriere della Sera, has been tasked with guarding the crash site ever since the plane was brought down last Thursday.
This shocking revelation comes five days after separatist leader Igor Girkin had initially posted on social media that the rebels had brought down flight MH17, claiming responsibility for shooting down what they believed to be a Ukrainian military aircraft.
In the posting, which was reportedly made about 30 minutes after the incident, Girkin had written “In the vicinity of Torez, we just downed a plane, an AN-26. It is lying somewhere in the Progress Mine. We have issued warnings not to fly in our airspace.”
The post was deleted not long after, when it was discovered that the plane they shot down was a civilian aircraft.
The next day, a Ukrainian daily published what it said were recordings of phone conversations, firstly between Russian intelligence officers and, subsequently, between separatist commanders, about a downed passenger plane believed to be the crashed flight MH17.
Since MH17 was downed last Thursday, a blame game has ensued between Ukraine and Russia over who is responsible for the deaths of the 298 on board the aircraft which was shot down in eastern Ukraine while on the way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
All 283 passengers and 15 crew died in the tragedy, with close to 200 of them being Dutch citizens.
The first flight carrying remains of most of the 298 victims has arrived in the Netherlands today, after leaving the facility in Kharkiv.