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Rebel leader suggests victims were dead before plane took off

MOSCOW (AP) — A top pro-Russia rebel commander in eastern Ukraine has given a bizarre version of events surrounding the Malaysian jetliner crash — suggesting many of the victims may have died days before the plane took off.

The pro-rebel website Russkaya Vesna on Friday quoted Igor Girkin as saying he was told by people at the crash site that ‘‘a significant number of the bodies weren’t fresh,’’ adding that he was told they were drained of blood and reeked of decomposition.

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The Malaysia Airlines Boeing-777 was shot down Thursday, killing all 298 people aboard. The plane was flying 10,000 meters above an area where Ukrainian forces have been fighting separatist rebels. Each side accuses the other of downing the plane.

U.S. intelligence authorities said a surface-to-air missile brought down the plane, and U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told the U.N. Security Council in New York on Friday that the missile was likely fired from a rebel-held area near the Russian border.

Girkin, also known as Strelkov and allegedly a former Russian military intelligence agent, said he couldn’t confirm the information. But it’s sure to add to the intense emotions surrounding the crash, with the rebels accused of shooting down the plane.

Girkin said ‘‘Ukrainian authorities are capable of any baseness.’’

He claimed that a large amount of blood serum and medications were found in the wreckage.

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