Europe
4:47 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

Among The Ruins Of The Plane, Tentative Steps To Secure Order

Originally published on Fri July 18, 2014 6:54 pm

Journalist Noah Sneider was at the site in eastern Ukraine where Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down, killing all 298 people onboard. Sneider updates Audie Cornish on the state of the site and local reactions.

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Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

For more on what's happening in eastern Ukraine, we have reached reporter Noah Sneider in the regional capital Donetsk. Sneider began his day at the crash site after spending the night there alongside other journalists in their cars.

NOAH SNEIDER: We did spend the night near the crash site. We woke up and found a nearly sort of deserted scene. The only people left besides us were these emergency services crews who had spent the night and a small group of rebels, who remained down at the end of the road. Search teams have been working to identify as many of the bodies as possible - that is to say, to identify the locations of the bodies.

CORNISH: Can you talk about what their resources are? I mean, what are they able to do there and do they have the equipment to do it?

SNEIDER: Their resources are pretty limited. You know, this is not an emergency services - they're equipped to handle something of this scale. Most of these guys, their primary work has been mining disasters. That's the common disaster, if there is such a thing, in this part of the world. You know, even something as small as like the firefighters - they're trying to put out the last smoldering remains of the wreckage there. There were holes in one of their fire hoses. And so there was water kind of spurting out as they're trying to put this fire down.

CORNISH: There's also been reports of people disturbing the site - even moving the bodies of victims. Have you seen anything like this?

SNEIDER: I haven't seen anything myself. The bodies, as far as we can tell, have been left alone. Many of them are in such a mangled condition. We're not talking about a single gunshot wound. We're talking about people who fell for miles in the sky. The perimeter is being secured so to speak by - or at least they're attempting to secure the perimeter - the rebel authorities there. One commander on the ground said there are essentially three separate groups of fighters - one from the nearby city of Snezhnoe, one from Siversk (PH) and a third group of Russian-Ukrainian Cossacks, who are handling security in the area. But again, as I think I mentioned yesterday, it's a pretty vast field and securing it in the sense of locking it down entirely is going to be very difficult.

CORNISH: Has anyone beyond these pro-Russian military groups been able to get to the site or try to?

SNEIDER: Well, there's journalists there working fairly freely. I was not present but there are reports that accrue from the OSCE.

CORNISH: And that's the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

SNEIDER: Exactly. And they've been monitoring the situation in eastern Ukraine since the beginning. Those folks, I believe, will probably be the point-people for any international effort at the crash site.

CORNISH: What else have you heard from the rebel leaders who are at the location? Have they said anything about who they think is responsible for this plane coming down?

SNEIDER: Yeah. The other rebel leaders and rebel fighters throughout the ranks all believe that Ukrainian authorities are responsible for it - that it's a provocation that's been cooked-up by the new government in Kiev. And the theory I've heard put forward by several rebels is that the Ukrainians are essentially looking for precedent to draw NATO deeper into Ukraine to force the West to provide more support and perhaps escalate their involvement. That's essentially what the rebels believe. And it's a moment, I think, where their beliefs might be more important than the reality on the ground. Because as we're thinking about how this conflict plays out in the coming months, the general attitude amongst the fighters is the same as it was before this, which is that - victory or death. We will fight till the end here.

CORNISH: Reporter Noah Sneider speaking to us from Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. Thanks so much for talking with us.

SNEIDER: Thank you for having me.

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