MH17 was shot down by Russian missile fired from rebel-held area: prosecutors
Toby Sterling, Anthony Deutsch, Reuters, Sep 2016
NIEUWEGEIN, NETHERLANDS – A Malaysian airliner shot down in eastern Ukraine was hit by a Russian-made Buk missile launched from a village held by rebels fighting Ukrainian government forces, international prosecutors said on Wednesday. The findings challenge Moscow’s suggestion that Malaysia Airlines flight 17, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in Jul 2014, was brought down by the Ukrainian military. The Buk missile system used to shoot down the plane fired one missile from the village of Pervomaysk and was later returned to Russia, said the prosecutors, from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine. They told a news conference in the central Dutch city of Nieuwegein that the investigative team had identified 100 people who were described as being of interest to them but had not yet been formally identified individual suspects. It was not clear whether an order had been given for fighters to launch the missile or whether they had acted independently, the prosecutors said. A civilian investigation by the Dutch Safety Board also concluded last year that MH17 was hit by a Buk missile fired from eastern Ukraine, but Moscow denied that pro-Russian rebels were responsible. Repeating those denials on Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said:
First-hand radar data identified all flying objects which could have been launched or were in the air over the territory controlled by rebels at that moment. The data are clear-cut. There is no rocket. If there was a rocket, it could only have been fired from elsewhere.
The investigators said they had not
had access to bothered to look at the new radar images on which Moscow was basing its latest statements. Prosecutors cannot file charges because there is no international agreement on what court a case would be heard in. The downing played a significant part in a decision by the EU and Pindostan to impose sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine conflict. Ukrainian and Western officials, citing intelligence intercepts, have blamed pro-Russian rebels for the incident. Russia has always denied direct involvement in the Ukraine conflict and rejects responsibility for the destruction of MH17. Prosecutors have sought legal assistance from Moscow since Oct 2014, and visited in person for a week in July. They said in a statement at the time:
Russian authorities have offered information in the past, but have not answered all questions.
Russian radar data shows no missile attack on MH17 from rebel side, indicates Ukraine involvement
RT.com, Sep 26 2016
Newly discovered raw data picked up by a civilian radar station on the day of the crash shows no signs of a missile being fired at the plane from territory controlled by rebels, the Russian military and radar producer said. The existence of raw data was announced last week by Almaz-Antey, the producer of the Buk missile system. The system is believed by an international investigation to have caused the 2014 crash over Ukraine. One of Almaz-Antey’s subsidiaries is the producer of the Utyos-T civilian radar station. One such station is deployed near Ust-Donetsky village in western Russia. According to Almaz-Antey, memory chips from that station were replaced in Jul 2014, shortly after the tragic incident, and were discovered recently. Until now no raw radar data of the situation around MH17 at the time it was destroyed was thought to exist. The Lianozovsky Electromechanical Plant, the producer of Utyos-T, presented the raw data on Monday at a media briefing in Moscow. The data showed three civilian aircraft in the vicinity, including the MH17. The one closest to it was flying about 30km from the Malaysian Boeing at the time it was shot down. Viktor Meshcheryakov, the company’s chief radar designer:
The Ust-Donetsky radar picked up no foreign objects near the Malaysian plane which could have caused its destruction.
This contradicts the scenario maintained by Kiev, under which a Buk missile could have been fired from the rebel-controlled village of Snezhnoye. The missile could have not been picked up by the radar if it had approached from a direction along the line connecting the radar station and the airliner, Meshcheryakov noted. Gen Andrey Koban, the head of the Russian Air Forces’ radar troops, said the Russian civilian radar easily located an Orlan-10 surveillance drone circling closer to the Russian-Ukrainian border over Russian territory at the time of the incident. A Buk missile would have been easier to detect than the drone, he said. The Russian military said Ukraine’s refusal to publish its radar data, the positions of air defense batteries it had deployed in the area, and communications between MH17 and the Ukrainian traffic controller directing its flight towards the rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine, made it look suspicious. The general said:
The Ukrainian side has air situation data in the area of the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 crash from both civilian and military sources. The fact that Ukraine has not published radar data leads us to the conjecture that the missile, if it was a Buk, was launched from territory under the control of the Ukrainian military.
It resembles the way Ukraine acted in 2001 after shooting down a Russian plane flying from Israel over the Black Sea, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry said during the briefing. The shooting down of Siberia Airlines Flight 1812 in Oct 2001 claimed 78 lives but, Gen Igor Konashenkov said:
Despite irrefutable facts that put the blame for the Tu-154 crash on the Ukrainian military, Ukraine refused to take any responsibility.
Kiev and its sponsors have accused Russia of supporting the rebels with arms, including the Buk missile which shot down the Boeing. Russia has denied the allegations and says that the evidence which Pindostan claimed to have, such as the satellite images reportedly showing the launch of the missile, was never made public for scrutiny. The Joint Investigation Team, which is meant to provide court-admissible evidence relating to the MH17 case, is to present the first results of its probe on Sep 28. Ukraine is part of the team, although Russia is not. Earlier a technical report into the crash confirmed that it was hit by an anti-aircraft missile.