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Malaysia Airlines flight wreckage scene unsecured, conflicting whereabouts of black box

Amid an unsecured crash site in an embattled area of eastern Ukraine, there are conflicting accounts of who has possession of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17's voice and data recording devices.

By JC Finley

KIEV, Ukraine, July 18 (UPI) -- The whereabouts of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17's voice and data recording devices is unclear.

U.S. officials confirmed late Thursday that the plane had indeed been shot down by a missile. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko established an investigative commission and invited the participation of international partners, including Malaysia, the Netherlands, and the United States.

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Due to the location of the crash site in Ukraine's restive east where pro-Russian separatists have been -- with the help of Russia -- battling Ukrainian armed forces for control of the region for several months, it has been a challenge to secure the scene.

In Donetsk, where MH17 crashed, regional officials and rebels offer differing accounts of who has the black box.

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Kostyantyn Batozsky, an adviser to the Donetsk regional governor, said during a news conference that the flight recordings had been handed over to Ukrainian officials with the Ukrainian Emergency Services Ministry. The rebels, he said, allowed the government workers access to the crash site. But, he acknowledged, he wasn't sure who currently was in possession of the recording devices.

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Meanwhile, the rebel leader of the self-proclaimed People's Republic of Donetsk, Aleksandr Borodai, said that his group had the recording devices. The group, he maintained, would not tamper with the devices as he asserted they would prove that separatists were not involving in shooting down MH17. Borodai also said his group intended to turn the devices over to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has a Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine active in region.

The OSCE has offered to assist with securing the crash site.

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