The government of Ukraine said Tuesday that it was a Russian officer who shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. Meanwhile, a refrigerated train carrying the remains of many of the 298 victims arrived at an arms industry plant in the city of Kharkiv, a staging spot before shipping the remains to various countries across the globe for identification and burial.
The director of Ukraine’s information security, Vitaly Nayda, said that the person who pulled the trigger was “absolutely” a Russian. He said that the person had to be a well-educated officer, well-equipped and trained by Russians.
Moscow flatly denies allegations that it did the deed. In fact, one Russian Army General, Andrei Kartapolov, has openly speculated that the plane was destroyed by a Ukrainian jet fighter. Petro Poroshenko, the President of Ukraine, countered that no Ukrainian aircraft were in the sky at the time the airliner was shot down.
Nayda says that Ukrainian intelligence is in possession of recorded conversations in which a detailed report is provided to a Russian officer several minutes before MH17 was shot down. According to Nayda, the communication told the officer that the plane was coming and with a constant speed and direction. The recording has not been released and thus cannot be confirmed.
The Russian ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, indicated that if the plane was indeed brought down by pro-Russian rebels that it would have been a mistake. If it was a mistake, he said, then those who had operated the missile launcher were confused. “If it was confusion,” he says, “it was not an act of terrorism.” Rebels have consistently denied being involved in the attack.
Alexander Borodai, a rebel leader, said that at this point what is taking place is an information war, insisting that his forces were not in possession of technology that could have destroyed the airplane. “Ukrainians are not interested in the truth,” he said.
U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona, who serves on the Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that there is overwhelming evidence that Russia was involved. Whether or not an actual Russian officer pulled the trigger, he said, “I guarantee you it’s (Putin’s) people who trained these people.”
Madeleine Albright, a former U.S. Secretary of State said that Putin has been lying, putting forward “disgusting discussions” and generally promoting propaganda around the subject. In 1995, when Albright was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, she forwarded evidence to that body’s Security Council of a massacre in Srebrenica. She now wants the United States to do the same thing regarding MH17, believing this is how “Putin’s lies” can be countered in the public sphere. Analysts for U.S. intelligence agencies are examining information from various sources, including social media and intercepted phone calls, to see what role Russia had in the downing.
The majority of people on board were from The Netherlands. Mark Rutte, the Prime Minister of Holland, expects the first plane carrying the remains to arrive in his country on Wednesday. He warned that although the remains of some of the victims could be identified quickly, others could take months.
In light of the possibility that a Russian officer was the one who shot down MH17 over Ukraine, Rutte was asked whether new sanctions against Russia were now possible. He replied in the affirmative, saying that “something fundamental” has now changed since the incident. “And as far as the Netherlands is concerned, all options are now on the table: economic, financial and political.”
By Gregory Baskin