ICAO Responds To Ukraine Request For Black Box Assistance

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Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe monitors speak with a pro-Russian separatist, second from left, at the site of Thursday's Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region of Ukraine. Reuters/Maxim Zmeyev

As many speculate about the fate of black boxes from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which was shot out of the sky over a Russian separatist-controlled area Thursday, Ukraine has asked for help from abroad.

Ukrainian officials contacted the Paris office of the International Civil Aviation Organization Friday to request assistance from its accident investigation specialists in recovering the voice recordings and data from the downed plane, said spokesman Anthony Philbin.

While international rules state that the Ukrainian government -- which does not currently control the crash site -- is responsible for recovering the data, countries often turn to the ICAO for assistance. The agency also assisted the Malaysian government after Flight MH370 went missing in March.

“Most of the assistance we provide is related to fact-finding,” he said.

Under Annex 13 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, the country where the plane went down, or the “state of occurrence,” is responsible for recovering the boxes and protecting the aircraft as much as possible.

In this case, it’s Ukraine. The state of occurrence must “take all reasonable measures to protect the evidence and to maintain safe custody of the aircraft and its contents for such a period as may be necessary for the purposes of an investigation,” the rules say.

Of course, in conflict zones this can be a little complicated.

Though the ICAO hasn’t moved into the area yet, some journalists on the scene are reporting that rebels have shot at members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe who have been trying to secure the crash site.

Ukraine’s state emergency service told reporters that they had already made progress.

“Two black boxes have been founded by our emergency teams,” Kostiantyn Batozky, head of Donetsk Regional State Administration said to Interfax on Friday, adding that he did not have any information about their exact location.

But not everyone seems to agree.

“No black boxes have been found. … We hope that experts will track them down and create a picture of what has happened,” pro-Russian separatist leader Aleksandr Borodai told the Associated Press.

Of course, Russia has a statement too: They’re not getting involved.

“In spite of what Kiev is saying, we are not going to take those boxes,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Moscow news channel Russia 24, according to an NBC report. “We are not going to violate those rules that exist in the international community in regard to such cases.”

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