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Drunkenness and looting at the MH17 crash site, now run by the same rebels who may have shot it down

Separatist rebels have taken control of the crash site of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine, where it was shot down on Thursday, possibly by the same rebel group. It appears, based on these tweets from the scene by BuzzFeed's always-excellent correspondent Max Seddon, that the rebels are not just blocking aviation investigators and health workers, but are conducting their own amateur investigation effort.

Needless to say, that the untrained rebels are carting away evidence and refusing entry to actual investigators from the The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) could make it harder for the world to ever fully understand what happened. The OSCE is a Vienna-based intergovernmental organization that works on conflict and disaster management issues such as the Ukraine crisis; its investigators are typically allowed complete access to such scenes. After leaving the scene of the crash, OSCE officials told reporters that the rebels had appeared to be drunk.

Maybe worse, the rebels' apparently lax treatment of the bodies of the 298 dead, who are casually hauled off or simply left on the ground, risks putting the victims' families through even more trauma. And there has been looting; reports indicate that locals may be using credit cards found on the victims' bodies.

The rebels who have taken control of the site are from a group called the Donetsk People's Republic, typically abbreviated to DNR, which had previously declared independence from Ukraine after seizing parts of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. DNR is widely considered to be supported and armed by Russia, which has sought to promote the rebels to sow chaos in Ukraine.

DNR rebels had, in earlier weeks, claimed to have seized a Buk surface-to-air missile system, and to have shot down Ukrainian military planes with simpler shoulder-fired missiles. It's not yet clear whether DNR was involved in the shooting down of MH17, or whether they would have had implicit or indirect Russian support for this. But the group is under wide enough suspicion that it seems especially egregious for them to have seized the crash site, blocked investigators, and so casually dismissed shrugged off the need for a crash investigation and proper removal of the bodies.

Read Seddon's dispatches from the Ukraine crisis here. Read our constantly-updated tally of what we know and don't know here.

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