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Ukraine's rebels finally surrender MH17 black boxes at surreal 1 a.m. press conference

A Dutch investigator at the Donetsk black boxes hand-off
A Dutch investigator at the Donetsk black boxes hand-off
Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

It's a little past 1 a.m. at the headquarters of the eastern Ukrainian separatist group that has seized control of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17's nearby crash site, but the rebel leaders of the Donetsk People's Republic have gathered international reporters there for a reason. With their audience crammed into the office building conference room that the pro-Russia rebels consider their separatist capital, the heavily armed men are finally — finally — handing off the black boxes from MH17 to Malaysian and Dutch representatives who will take custody.

It is, judging by the missives of those in attendance, a scene of high farce in the style we've come to expect from eastern Ukraine's unruly, often-unpredictable, occasionally drunk rebels. The black boxes, sure enough, were surrendered, but not without a strange and awful little show, led by Alexander Borodai, the self-appointed prime minister of the separatist rebel state, who used the moment to blame Ukraine's government for the shoot-down.

The black boxes are finally, after days of being held by eastern Ukraine rebels who variously claimed them and denied possessing them, in the hands of Malaysian and Dutch officials who can investigate them properly. But not before we were all treated to another glimpse at the strange little world of the Donetsk separatists.