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Alleged phone call: 'We have just shot down a plane'

By Mariano Castillo, CNN
updated 2:58 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: New recordings are purported to be Russians and rebels discussing missile
  • The alleged militants talk about shooting down a plane
  • The voices on the audio say they thought it was a military plane

(CNN) -- "We have just shot down a plane. ... A plume of smoke is visible."

The biggest clue so far into who may have shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 might be what Ukrainian officials say are intercepted communications between pro-Russian rebels operating in eastern Ukraine.

The recordings, translated and distributed by Ukrainian officials, begin with an alleged militant informing others that a plane has been shot down.

The communication picks up later, once the alleged rebels reach the scene of the crash.

Families of crew members aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 gather for a vigil Tuesday, July 22, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. All 298 people aboard the passenger plane died when it was shot down Thursday, July 17, in a rebel-controlled part of eastern Ukraine. Families of crew members aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 gather for a vigil Tuesday, July 22, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. All 298 people aboard the passenger plane died when it was shot down Thursday, July 17, in a rebel-controlled part of eastern Ukraine.
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The timeline before MH17 crashed
Journalist: Bodies splayed through field

Here's a segment of a conversation between an alleged pro-Russian rebel named Major and another identified as Grek, per Ukrainian authorities:

Major: The plane broke into pieces in the air ... we have found the first 200 (dead). It's a civilian."

Grek: "How are things going there?"

M: "Well, we are 100% sure that it was a civilian plane."

G: "Are there a lot of people?"

M: "F--k! The debris was falling straight into the yards."

M: "Here are remnants of internal brackets, chairs, bodies."

G: "Are there any weapons?"

M: "Nothing at all. Civilian belongings, medical scraps, towels, toilet paper."

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on Friday blasted the "terrorists" he blamed for shooting down the plane a day earlier, with 298 people aboard.

CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of the phone call, and it is not known if the recordings were edited or when they were made.

But Lt. Col. Rick Francona, a CNN military analyst, said he would not be surprised if Ukrainians were able to monitor the communications of the rebels.

"Ukrainian intelligence, they're pretty good in their own territory," he said Friday on CNN's "New Day."

In a final segment of the alleged intercepted phone calls, an unidentified militant allegedly speaks with a Russian Cossack, Mykola Kozitsyn.

Militant: "On TV, they say like it is a Ukrainian An-26, a transport plane. But the writing says 'Malaysia Airlines.' What was it doing over the territory of Ukraine?"

Kozitsyn: "Well then it was bringing spies. Why the hell were they flying? This is war going on."

MH17 shot down amid political chaos
Map: Approximate route of MH17  Map: Approximate route of MH17
Map: Approximate route of MH17Map: Approximate route of MH17

While these recordings have garnered worldwide attention, they are not the first alleged intercepted calls that Ukrainian officials have released. Others were released earlier this month.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin told CNN on Friday that the phone calls were intercepted at the same time that the plane was shot down.

Yatsenyuk called for international support "to bring to justice all these bastards who committed this international crime."

Russia has not directly responded to the content of the audio, but President Vladimir Putin has blamed Ukraine for the crash. "This tragedy would not have happened if there had been peace on that land, or in any case, if military operations in southeastern Ukraine had not been renewed," he said.

An additional set of recordings released by Ukrainian intelligence officials Friday is said to link the rebels to the time that the missile allegedly took down the plane.

One recording, purportedly between the military chief of the separatist Lugansk National Republic and a Russian military intelligence officer, discusses the missile system, called a Buk.

The alleged rebel is heard telling the supposed Russian officer that they hold the Buk.

"Yes, I know that," the Russian officer responds.

In a separate audio, another alleged Russian military intelligence officer and another rebel military chief discuss where to unload and hide the Buk.

READ: Malaysia Airlines crash site: 'Everything rained down in bits and pieces'

READ: Did surface-to-air missile take down Flight 17?

MAPS: What route did the flight take?

CNN's Nic Robertson contributed to this report.

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