Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
 / Updated 
By Veronika Silchenko and Roman Stepanovych

HRABOVE, Ukraine — The mayor of the Ukrainian town where Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 fell to earth has revealed the last item he retrieved from the jet's wreckage: a cellphone.

Vladimir Berezhnoy helped investigators and pro-Russia rebels controlling the area to collect the personal belongings of the 298 people aboard the Boeing 777 shot down one year ago Friday.

The mayor of Hrabove housed the items in a garage, which is now empty after its contents were transferred to crash investigators.

Flowers left by parents of a victim of the crash are seen on a piece of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Hrabove on July 26, 2014.BULENT KILIC / AFP - Getty Images, file

Berezhnoy said that last item he found was a cellphone in April.

"I was worried when we pushed the power button to check if the phone worked, and it did," he said. "Through the whole winter it was under snow, but worked. The battery was almost dead, so it immediately ran out."

The mayor added: "Could you imagine receiving a message from a loved one who is already dead for [almost] a year? I didn't want it to happen to anyone."

The West still disagrees with Russia about what happened to the airliner.

The West says the plane was likely shot down by the pro-Moscow rebels using a Russian-supplied BUK missile launcher. The Kremlin rejects that conclusion, suggesting the airliner was downed by a Ukrainian jet or missile.

When the plane crashed, Berezhnoy said he was the only non-rebel allowed to enter the area. He was ordered to supply the troops with food and tell everyone else not to come any closer.

"The people in balaclavas came right after it all happened and told everyone to leave. Absolutely everyone," he said. "They built up the block posts so even the cars were not allowed to come near. No cars or people, except me."