Senior U.S. intelligence officials say they have no evidence of direct Russian government involvement in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. However, the U.S. authorities consider that Russia was responsible for “creating the conditions” that led to the crash of the airliner.
The intelligence officials believe that Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine shot down the plane by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile. They also claim that the analyses of taped phone conversations between separatists obtained by U.S. intelligence showed that the culprits did not realize they were targeting a commercial airliner.
But the officials said they did not know who fired the missile or whether any Russian operatives were present at the missile launch.
They were not certain that the missile crew was trained in Russia, although they described a stepped-up campaign in recent weeks by Russia to arm and train the rebels, which they say has continued even after the downing of the commercial jetliner, says the Huff Post.
The officials cited several reasons they could not make a final determination about who fired. One was that U.S. officials have yet to see the plane wreckage in person.
In terms of who fired the missile, “we don’t know a name, we don’t know a rank and we’re not even 100 percent sure of a nationality,” one official said, adding at another point, “There is not going to be a Perry Mason moment here,” a reference to a fictional detective who solved mysteries.
The Obama administration, however, has been pointing the finger at Russia for backing the separatists, who have been fighting with Ukrainian forces for months. On Monday, President Obama said Russia had gone beyond just arming the separatists — it had trained them to use the heavy-duty artillery.
“Russia has extraordinary influence over these separatists. No one denies that. Russia has urged them on. Russia has trained them,” Obama said. “We know that Russia has armed them with military equipment and weapons, including anti-aircraft weapons. Key separatist leaders are Russian citizens.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday said it was “pretty clear” the system was transferred from Russia into the hands of separatists.
“We know with confidence that the Ukrainians did not have such a system anywhere near the vicinity at that point in time,” Kerry said. “We know with confidence that the Ukrainians did not have such a system anywhere near the vicinity at that point in time,” Kerry said. “So it obviously points a very clear finger at the separatists.”
Russia stepped up its deliveries of vehicles and rocket launchers in the weeks prior to the downing of Flight 17, one official said, noting that the Ukrainian military was making advances at the time and Russia was trying to help the separatists fight back.
On Sunday, the U.S. Embassy in Kiev released a document detailing purported eyewitness and other evidence also indicating the airliner was likely brought down by a SA-11 surface-to-air missile fired by the separatists, reports the Fox News.