U.S. officials: The missile used to kill 300 civilians came from Russia

posted at 3:31 pm on July 20, 2014 by Noah Rothman

According to U.S. officials briefed on the latest intelligence regarding the deadly attack on Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 now point to Russia as the source of the sophisticated weapon used to take that plane out of the sky on Thursday.

Speaking with both The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal on Saturday, it is clear Washington now believes the SA-11 anti-aircraft missile used in the attack on MH17 was just one of the powerful weapons Moscow supplied pro-Russian militants in Ukraine with in recent weeks.

“U.S. officials say they now suspect that Russia supplied the rebels with multiple SA-11 antiaircraft systems by smuggling them into eastern Ukraine with other military equipment, including tanks,” read a report in The Journal.

The added certainty that the SA-11 systems likely were in rebel hands also poses questions about why Ukraine or U.S. officials didn’t move more quickly to advise commercial jetliners of potential dangers, if there was time after they learned of possible rebel control of the systems.

Moscow has continued to deny supplying armed separatists with heavy weapons, despite mounting evidence to the contrary put forward by U.S. officials. “We know there are Russian troops inside Ukraine,” said a U.S. official. “Russian troops, Russian equipment.”

The Post’s sources corroborated the claims made in The Journal:

“We do believe they were trying to move back into Russia at least three Buk [missile launch] systems,” the official said. U.S. intelligence was “starting to get indications . . . a little more than a week ago” that the Russian launchers had been moved into Ukraine, said the official.

Two of the antiaircraft systems were spotted entering Russia from Ukraine at 2 a.m. Friday, he said. One had its full complement of four missiles, but the other was missing a missile, he said. Two hours later, he said, a convoy of three vehicles that included one of the launchers and a control truck crossed into Russia.

The crash site has already been compromised by the pro-Russian militants in control of the area. Bodies and aircraft debris, including the plane’s black boxes according to some reports, have already been removed by separatists loyal to Moscow. Many of the bodies of the victims are reportedly being left by rebel forces to rot in the summer heat.

The Post reported that the attack and the rebels’ treatment of the crash site are “hardening” attitudes toward Russia’s exacerbation of this conflict. The Netherlands, which lost 192 nationals in this attack, had been one of the European countries concerned about the prudence of imposing tougher sanctions on Moscow.

In a phone call with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Saturday, reported in The Journal, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte reportedly said that he called on the European Union to “reconsider its approach to Russia in light of evidence that pro-Russian separatists brought down the plane.”

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“On Friday, the Daily Mail, one of the major UK tabloids carried photos and video of what was alleged to be a rebel “Buk” launcher heading back to Russia. The article carried a claim from some Ukrainian source that the launcher was missing several missiles after having shot them at the Malaysian 777. The article was prominently linked to the Drudge Report, and so was probably viewed by several million people.

Today, this meme made it into Uncle Sam’s official narrative, as per the following New York Times excerpt:

On the CBS program “Face the Nation,” Mr. Kerry referred to a video that the Ukrainians have made public showing an SA-11 unit heading back to Russia after the downing of the plane with “a missing missile or so.”

The video referenced by the New York Times was, in fact, posted on the Facebook account of the Ukrainian Interior Minister. The allegation was that the launcher was crossing the border with Russia.

However, going by the billboard and other features of the scenery, Russian bloggers and news sources claim to have identified the road in the video as having been taken in or near the town of Krasnoarmeisk (“Krasnoarmiysk” in Ukrainian), which has been under Kiev’s control since May.

In fact, the billboard is supposedly advertising a Krasnoarmeisk car dealership. Also, one of the structures in the background is said to be a construction materials store on Gorkii Street, Krasnoarmeisk.

Please note that this town is (very roughly) 120 kilometers from the Russian border and 80 kilometers from where the Malaysian 777 went down. And again, it has been under Kiev’s control since May.

At least one other clip of the “Russian Buk” that has been made available also suggests that the Ukrainians are showing their own equipment. I’m still working on researching that one for you.”


Viator on July 21, 2014 at 9:47 PM

Comment pages: 1 2