A social media page that Ukrainian media frequently attribute to Igor Girkin, a Russian citizen who describes himself as a rebel military leader in Donetsk, appeared to claim responsibility for the downed plane shortly after it went missing.
“We have just shot down an AN-26 plane in the Torez region, it is lying somewhere near the Progress mine,” read a post at 5:50 p.m. Moscow time on the social media site VKontakte. “We have warned emphatically: Do not fly in ‘our sky.’” The post then offered “video confirmation” of the crash.
The post was removed Thursday evening, shortly after reports confirmed that the crashed aircraft was a commercial airliner.
The initial post suggested that pro-Russian rebels mistook the aircraft for a Ukrainian military transport plane. Earlier this week, an AN-26 was brought down over the Luhansk region. Two crew members were reported killed.
The Ukraine Security Service later released a recording of intercepted phone calls in which separatists purportedly discussed the shootdown, indicating that they were responsible.
“We have just shot down a plane,” says one man on the tape, identified as Igor Bezler, one of the leaders in the pro-Russian separatist movement in eastern Ukraine, at about 4:40 p.m. local time. “It was 100 percent a passenger aircraft,” another man, identified as “Major,” responds later.
“There are lots of corpses of women and children,” another militant says. “They say it’s written Malaysia Airlines on the plane. What was it doing on Ukraine’s territory?”
“That means they were carrying spies,” says another voice, identified as that of Nikolay Kozitsin. “They shouldn’t be [expletive] flying. There is a war going on.”
UPDATE: The discussion on downing the plane is now available on YouTube:
Related link: Malaysia Airlines plane crashes in eastern Ukraine; U.S. intelligence blames missile ~ Washington Post