US intelligence officials say they have no clear evidence of direct Russian government involvement in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which they say was most likely hit by rebels by mistake. This is a narrow view at the least considering the source of the weaponry used in the attack.
They say that MH-17 was likely hit by an SA-11 SAM fired by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine and that Russia “created the conditions” for the attack by arming and financing the separatists.
It is believed that the most likely explanation for why the plane was shot down was that the rebels made a mistake and misidentified the aircraft as that belonging to the Ukraine air force. Separatists had previously shot down 12 Ukrainian military aircraft.
“The most plausible explanation … was that it was a mistake,” and that the missile was fired by “an ill-trained crew” using a system that requires some skill and training, an official said. Again this statement does not stand the test of scrutiny! Why was this “ill-trained crew” using a technical weapons platform, but even so they still managed to shoot down an unidentified civilian aircraft flying at 33,000 ft by assuming it was a Ukraine air force aircraft.
The officials had made their appraisal using social media postings and videos made public in recent days by the Ukrainian government, even though tnot all off this evidence has been authenticated.
Video of a missile launcher said to have been crossing the Russian border after the launch, and appearing to be missing a missile has yet to be verified as being exactly what it purported to be.
It is still not known who fired the missile at MH-17 or whether any Russian operatives were present at the missile launch. As if Russia (or the separatists) is going to freely divulge that information!
It is also not certain that the missile crew was trained in Russia, although a stepped-up campaign in recent weeks by Russia to arm and train the rebels suggests that Russia is clearly implicated in this disaster. This training has continued even after the downing of the commercial jetliner. The Russian military had been training the rebels at a large base in Rostov on various weapons, including air defence systems, they said.
The claim that the Ukrainian government had shot down the plan was not supported and was unrealistic, as Kiev had no such missile systems in that area, which is clearly under the control of the rebels.
This would mean Ukrainian government troops would have had to fight their way into the area towing the weapons systems, fire at the passenger plane and fight their way out again. “That is not a plausible scenario to me,” the official said.
President Barack Obama said the Malaysia Airlines plane “was shot down over territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine.’’ He also said Russia has both trained the separatists and “armed them with military equipment and weapons, including anti-aircraft weapons”.
But in Russia, at a news conference held yesterday, defence chiefs offered two alternative theories about what happened to MH-17, the first being that it was possibly shot down by a Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jet. Moscow stated its radar systems had detected the fighter tracking near the Boeing 777 at the time it crashed and noted the plane was armed with air-to-air R-60 missiles (how?) that could shoot down the aircraft.
The US dismissed the claim as “desperate” propaganda, pointing out that Ukraine air force fighters cannot operate at 33,000 feet where MH-17 was flying and that Ukraine has told Washington that none of its planes was in the air at the time.
Russia also suggested MH-17 might have been shot down by a Ukraine government surface-to-air BUK missile system rather than a Russian supplied system provided to rebels by Moscow. But again, how did Ukraine get the missile into the rebel held area?
Russia seems to be offering feeble and implausible excuses to attempt to deflect their role in this disaster!