Conflict & Justice

Rebels have shot down Ukrainian military jets. And they proudly admit it


A local resident rides past near the village sign opposite the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines MH17 that crashed last Thursday, near Hrabove (Grabovo) in the Donetsk region July 23, 2014. The sign reads, "Save and Protect. Hrabove (Grabovo)."


REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev

Two more planes were shot out of the sky over eastern Ukraine on Wednesday. This time, though, they were Ukrainian military jets.

And there's another key difference: pro-Russian rebels in the area are proudly claiming they responsibility, unlike in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17, where everyone is pointing fingers at everyone else.

The BBC's Natalia Antelava spoke with one rebel commander who was overjoyed about the recent news. He told her it was the first of many victories to come.

But while the rebels consider it a victory, it's definitely a loss for those attempting to investigate the flight 17 crash site. The rebels promised full access to the site and a ceasefire with Ukrainian forces in the area until the investigation was over. But those promises lasted all of a day.

"Just when we thought this investigation couldn't get any more difficult, it did," Antelava says. "This is going to have a massive impact."

Already, there has been very little progress made at the crash site. While Antelava saw a couple of investigators at the site on Wednesday, taking photos, a couple of investigators can't properly investigate a crash site that Antelava describes as multiple football fields in size. She says what's needed is an army of investigators. But that would require a safe area to work, and the area remains "tense."

Antelava heard shelling last night, and gunfire constantly breaks out. There was a street battle just two days ago, and there's no reason to think it couldn't happen again soon.

For the moment, events seem to have returned to the claims and counter-claims of last week. The Ukrainian Security Council says the missiles that shot down its jets on Wendesday were fired from within Russia. Russia denies that claim. And again, there are multiple layers of subterfuge inolved. But while wading through the accusation is confusing, Antelava says there is one certainly: Russian President Vladimir Putin is supporting the rebels.

"The group they have created is responsible for the situation here," she says. "We wouldn't have what we have today — this burned out field, bodies and aircraft parts — if it hadn't been for President Putin's support."