U.S. intelligence claims that pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine are responsible for shooting down a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet with antiaircraft systems, which was provided to them by Moscow. It is believed that Russia supplied the rebels with multiple SA-11 antiaircraft systems by smuggling them into eastern Ukraine with other military equipment, including tanks.
U.S. authorities suspect that later those military systems were returned back to Russia, after Malaysian passenger plane crashed, buttressing what Ukraine charges is an attempt by the rebels and their Russian advisers to cover up their involvement in the crash.
“The assumption is they’re trying to remove evidence of what they did,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on the latest intelligence.
At a news conference in Kiev, Vitaly Nayda, the head of counterintelligence for the Ukrainian State Security Service, displayed photographs that he said showed the three Buk-M1 missile systems on the road to the Russian border.
Two of the devices, missile launchers mounted on armored vehicles, crossed the border into Russia about 2 a.m. Friday, or less than 10 hours after the jet, Flight 17, was blown apart in midair, he said. The third weapon crossed about 4 a.m.
Mr. Nayda said that the missile had been fired from the town of Snizhne, in rebel-controlled territory, echoing American intelligence showing the missile coming from eastern Ukraine. Both the Ukrainians and the Americans said they believed that the separatist rebels would have needed help from Russia in order to fire such a weapon, reports the NY Times.
However, Kremlin denied their involvement suggesting that Ukraine’s military might have been responsible, an assertion Ukraine rejected. A few moment before news of the plane crash broke on Thursday afternoon, the separatists claimed on social media they had shot down a military aircraft.
“Separatists claimed responsibility and posted videos that are now being connected to the Malaysian Airlines crash,” explained US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power. “Separatist leaders also boasted on social media about shooting down a plane, but later deleted these messages.
Interesting, but no expert air crash investigators have yet had access to the rural crash site since Flight 17 was shot down on Thursday afternoon. International monitors investigating the crash of the Boeing 777-200 said the team was not given full access to the site and was greeted with hostility by armed men.
“There didn’t seem to be anyone really in control,” Michael Bociurkiw, spokesman for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe team, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
Bociurkiw said the group only stayed about 75 minutes and examined about 200 meters at the scene before being forced to leave. Pieces of the airplane and bodies are spread over several kilometers.
In order to somehow get access to the crash site, the U.N. Security Council is considering a draft resolution to condemn the “shooting down” of a Malaysian passenger plane, calling on states in the region to cooperate with an international investigation.
The draft resolution “demands that those responsible for this incident be held to account and that all states cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability.” However, Russia’s U.N. mission declined to comment on the draft Security Council resolution.