Hrabove: Four months after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine, a new video shows how close the burning passenger jet came to hitting village homes and suggests that residents first assumed it was a Ukrainian military plane that had been struck.
The amateur footage, filmed by a resident of Hrabove, shows people reacting in alarm as wreckage blazes only a few meters away from their homes on the afternoon of July 17. The video is perhaps the first taken immediately after the plane came down.
The ultimate cause of the MH17 disaster is the subject of major diplomatic disputes. Ukraine and Western government say Russia-backed separatist fighters fired the rockets that felled the plane, while state-run television in Moscow over the weekend produced evidence it claims places blame with Ukraine's air force.
All 298 people aboard the Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were killed when it was shot down over a rebel-held area. Charred remains of the aircraft are scattered around fields over an area of 20 square kilometers (8 square miles).
Workers today began collecting debris from the crash site, under the supervision of Dutch investigators and officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The recovered fragments will be loaded onto trains and taken to the government-controlled eastern city of Kharkiv. The investigation into what happened to MH17 is being conducted there and in the Netherlands.
The recovery operations have been delayed amid continued fighting between government troops and separatist fighters. A truce was agreed in September, but hostilities have raged on nonetheless.
In the video obtained on Sunday by AP, residents of the village of Hrabove can be heard asking about the whereabouts of the pilot. This is significant because multiple Ukrainian military planes had been shot down by this time, and their pilots and crew regularly taken prisoner by rebel forces.
Three days before the MH17 was brought down, rebels claimed responsibility for shooting down an Antonov-24 military transport plane.
The downing of MH17 stunned Ukrainian defense officials. They argued that the aircraft must have been targeted by Russian fighter jets, as it was flying at an altitude of 6,500 meters (21,300 feet), far beyond the reach of the Igla portable surface-to-air missiles then being used by rebel fighters. The plane was flying at 10,000 meters (33,000 feet) when it was hit.