Progress at MH17 Site as Separatists Finally Turn Over Black Boxes

Though pro-Russian militants are still standing guard of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash site, today two major hurdles have been crossed in the ongoing investigation. 

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For the first time since the crash, there is a bit of good news and progress to report from the MH17 site. Today, the pro-Russian separatists (or "terrorists" as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has defined them) handed over the plane's black boxes to the Malaysian government.

Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak also noted that the agreement he reached with rebel leader Alexander Borodai for the black box transfer, would also allow international investigators full "safe access" to the site. "I must stress that although an agreement has been reached, there remain a number of steps required before it is completed," said Razak, "There is work still to be done, work which relies on continued communication in good faith. Mr. Borodai and his people have so far given their cooperation."

A Malaysian colonel in Donetsk determined the black boxes are "in good condition," which is of note as there have been concerns that the rebel forces may have tampered with this evidence. The recording devices were turned over during a late night preconference in front of assembled media.

As for the bodies, the rebels have finally stepped aside and will allow the refrigerated train where the victim's bodies have been stored to move peacefully. Right now, it is at the Donetsk station, but Malaysian and Dutch experts will accompany the bodies to Ukrainian-controlled Kharkov, where the identification process will occur. The rebels have also agreed to a ceasefire in a six-mile radius around the crash side, which should also assist investigators.

At the crash site, much of the plane still remains in pieces. Examination of the photos taken at the site appears to show parts of the fuselage, covered in holes, tears, and shrapnel damage. This damage is consistent with that of a missile strike.

The U.S. has confirmed that a Russian-made missile was involved in taking down MH17. Unverified videos have previously leaked of missile launchers traveling in the Donetsk area, and now, Ukrainian authorities are working to narrow down a potential launch point. Yevhen Marchuk, a former Ukrainian prime minister and military expert, noted that when shrapnel evidence is fully investigated, they will much more easily be able to determine the point of origin for the missile.

While there has certainly been progress at the crash site today, the world waits for the next move from Russian President Vladimir Putin. World leaders are calling for change, perhaps even economic sanctions against Russia — even though those sanctions might burden them and their economies — if the investigation continues to be hindered by the pro-Russian terrorist organization.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.