Saturday 25 November 2017

Pressure mounts on Russia to recover black boxes and open up crash site

Edel Mahady. Photo: Alf Sorbello
Edel Mahady. Photo: Alf Sorbello

Ben Farmer and Steven Swinford

Separatist rebels claim to have recovered black box recorders from the wreckage of the MH17 airliner, as Britain insisted yesterday that Russia must ensure they are handed over.

Alexander Borodai, prime minister of the self-styled Donetsk People's Republic, said his men would only hand over the flight data boxes to the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

Ukraine's intelligence service said the boxes had been taken, on Moscow's orders, in an attempt to hide Russia's role in the shooting down of the Boeing 777. The agency released telephone intercepts claiming to show a rebel commander ordering people to look for the recorders "because Moscow asks where the boxes are".

It said they showed Oleksandr Khodakovskyi, commander of the separatists' Vostok battalion, telling a worker: "Our friends from high above are very much interested in the fate of the black boxes. I mean people from Moscow."

In another exchange, he tells a rescue worker that anything found must not fall into the hands of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

However, it is not clear how much the black boxes will be of use to investigators probing the fate of the Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur flight. One British government source said: "The black boxes... may be a red herring in terms of what they will tell us. They will just show the plane was fine and then it was blown out of the sky."

Meanwhile yesterday, family and friends of Irishwoman Edel Mahady who died in the attack are still waiting for information about what has happened to her remains.

They said they have been "too depressed" to follow the latest developments in the aftermath of the crash.

A close family friend of the mum-of-two told the Irish Independent the family "are staying away from the news" and "haven't been able to listen to what's happening".

The neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said: "To think that her body could be lying out there in a field – if her body even survived the crash – and to think her money and other things might have been stolen, I don't want to dwell on that."

They said the entire community was "distraught" to hear about the death.

"We're all feeling very distraught. It's like something you'd read about, it's what you see in movies, but now it's with us. It's too strange to comprehend the whole thing."

It's understood that Ms Mahady, originally from Palmerstown in Dublin, was a regular returnee to Ireland since she emigrated to Perth in Australia 20 years ago.

She had spent two weeks visiting her elderly mother Monica Byrne, who had been injured in a fall. She was travelling back to Perth via Kuala Lumpur when the plane was shot down.

Local councillor Guss O'Connell said Palmerstown was in "absolute devastation" and said a book of condolences will be open today from 10am at the Community and Youth Centre on Kennelsfort Road, and will remain open until Wednesday evening at 6.

In a statement, Ms Mahady's sisters Maeve and Grainne described her as an Irish 'tiger mother'.

"She was devoted to, and immeasurably proud of, her husband Dereck, son Conor and daughter Ciara. If there was an Irish version of a 'tiger mother,' Edel was it."

Meanwhile, there is growing international impatience with Russia over its inaction to help relatives and secure the crash site.

British Prime Minister David Cameron told Russian President Vladimir Putin that he is partly responsible for the "appalling tragedy" and warned him that the "world is watching".

During a tense phone call, Mr Cameron told the Russian leader that the delay in opening the MH17 crash site to investigators is "unaccept-able and indefensible".

Mr Cameron's comments came after he reached an agreement with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and Francois Hollande, the French president, for tougher sanctions on Russia. The sanctions, which will be agreed by ministers at an EU summit on Tuesday, will target people and companies that have supported Russian aggression in Ukraine.

The asset freezes and travel bans could target large Russian companies listed on the London Stock Exchange, as well as oligarchs who have supported Mr Putin. Britain will also push for arms deals to be halted, which could trigger conflict with France because it is selling warships to Russia. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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