Sydney, Jul 17: New "sickening" video related to the downed Malaysia Airlines MH17 and aired today purportedly shows Russia-backed rebels rummaging through the bags of dead passengers, triggering fresh demands from top Australian leaders for Russia's cooperation in the probe.
The 17-minute video, apparently smuggled out of a rebel base in Ukraine, shows the rebels handling the bodies as they express shock that the aircraft they brought down was a commercial one and not a fighter jet.
The aircraft was shot out of the sky with what is believed to be a surface-to-air missile by pro-Russian rebels during heavy fighting with Ukrainian forces. The footage shows the uniformed rebels examining the contents of backpacks and collecting phones and other items as they try to find the black box.
The rebels appear to be surprised that the aircraft was a commercial airliner, not a fighter jet, and can be heard saying "civilians, civilians" and "this is a passenger plane" in Russian.
Australia's foreign minister Julie Bishop described the video as "sickening to watch" and said it was further evidence that the attack was deliberately carried out by a missile.
"It is certainly consistent with the intelligence advice that we received 12 months ago, that Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 had been shot down by a surface-to-air missile," she told Channel Nine.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the video further highlighted that "this was an atrocity, it was in no way an accident".
"They may not have known that they were shooting down a passenger plane but they were deliberately shooting out of the sky what they knew was a large aircraft.
"Rebels don't get hold of this kind of weaponry by accident. I mean, this was obviously very sophisticated weaponry. We are confident that it was weaponry that came across the border from Russia, fired, and then shortly thereafter, once it was realised what had happened, went back into Russia," he told ABC News.
Abbott urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to cooperate with investigations into the attack. A joint criminal probe is underway led by the Netherlands and a final report on the cause of the crash is due to be released in October by the Dutch Safety Board.
"I am not suggesting that the Russian President knew anything about this in advance," he said, adding: "I suspect, based on my own conversations with him last year, that he is horrified that all of this has happened."
The distressing and graphic footage of militiamen trampling over the charred wreckage site could prove crucial to the probe, clearly identifying armed men on the scene.