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CHERVONYI ZHOVTEN, Ukraine (Reuters) - Villagers in eastern Ukraine have told Reuters they saw a missile flying directly overhead just before a Malaysian airliner was shot out of the sky on July 17 last year, providing the most detailed accounts to date that suggest it was fired from territory held by pro-Russian rebels.
The accounts from four villagers of Chervonyi Zhovten, which was then, and is now, controlled by the rebels, are significant because they indicate the rocket was in the early stages of its flight path.
That would mean it must have been launched from rebel ground nearby, challenging the suggestion of Moscow and the separatists that the plane was brought down by the Ukrainian military. At the time, the nearest Ukrainian-held area was about 6 km (3.7 miles) away.
Ukraine and its Western allies have said it was the rebels who shot down the airliner, using a Russian-made BUK anti-aircraft missile system. All 298 people on board were killed.
Until now, videos, photographs and accounts from residents have pointed to a BUK battery being delivered to the rebel-held town of Snizhne, 7 km north of Chervonyi Zhovten, on July 17, and then driven away from the area some time later. Its precise location at the time the plane was shot down has never been confirmed.
As the investigation into the MH17 tragedy continues in eastern Ukraine, the SU-25's chief designer has told German media that the fighter jet could not possibly have taken down the passenger plane. RT spoke to former pilots about the jet's capabilities.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. Everyone on board – 283 passengers and 15 crew members – perished in the tragedy.
A report on the official investigation published in September 2014 said the crash was a result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that struck the Boeing from the outside. However, it did not conclude what the objects were, where they came from, or who was responsible.
Kiev and some Western states have placed blame on eastern Ukraine militias and Russia. The Russian Defense Ministry shared radar data pointing to other possibilities in July – including an attack by a Ukrainian Sukhoi-25 fighter jet, which was said to have been tracking the passenger plane.
While an official international investigation into the crash has been dragging on for nine months, the debate into the cause of the tragedy has been once again reignited by recent comments from the chief designer of the SU-25.
READ MORE: MH17 broke up in mid-air due to external damage - Dutch preliminary report
Kiev-born Soviet and Russian aircraft designer Vladimir Babak said on Monday that the SU-25 jet – which was spotted tracking the MH17 Boeing at the moment it crashed down – did not have the capability to shoot down a passenger plane. He said the fighter jet could have successfully attacked the Boeing at an altitude of 3,000-4,000 meters, but not at the plane’s altitude of 10,500 meters. He added that air-to-air missiles would have only damaged the Boeing – not completely destroyed it while still in the air.
originally posted by: aboutface
a reply to: Xcathdra
Thanks for the added info. I have to admit I haven't read up enough on the Ukrainian situation. I do remember seeing a couple of pics though. How to explain the bullet holes in the plane if it was downed by a missile?. It feels as if I'm missing some info.
originally posted by: noeltrotsky
I'm highly confident the official investigation is going to state the Separatists in East Ukraine shot down MH17. The real question is will that report Link Russia as the cause by giving them the weapon or Russian forces actually operating the Buk launcher themselves inside East Ukraine.
If Russia is implicated then you could see special sanctions applied against them. Sanctions that bleed money away from Aeroflot for every overflight and direct the funds to MH17 families. Something like what the West did to Libya for the Lockerbie bombing is also possible.
Commenting on the jet’s ability to maneuver at higher altitudes, the former commander of an aviation division, Major General Sergey Borysyuk, noted that the jet would have had the capability to “maneuver comfortably,” even at such a high altitude.
“I personally flew, and not once, at an altitude of 12,000 meters...,” he said. “My colleagues have risen to an altitude of 14,000 meters. The altitude of 10,500 was officially authorized during operations in Afghanistan. Therefore the plane, even at an altitude of 12,000 meters, has the capability to maneuver comfortably, its aerodynamic characteristics enable it to do so.”
Borysyuk explained that the R-60 missiles on the SU-25 have an infrared homing and a rod warhead. Citing the nature of the plane’s debris and the “precisely sliced fuselage,” he said that R-60 missiles were possibly used.
“The firing range of the missile is 7.5km. And in those conditions, the probability of hitting the target increases,” he added.
originally posted by: Xcathdra
Any case against Russia is going to require irrefutable proof that Russia was in fact behind the shoot down. I still think the shoot down was accidental based on mistaken identity. The attempts to push blame are a whole lot worse than if they came out and said it was a mistake.
If the evidence is good enough I could see Russian blaming the rebels in an effort to back out of the consequences. Even that option would be problematic since Russia has been insistent that the plane was brought down by everyone but themselves or Russians.
Considering the rebels claimed they shot it down only to back away and delete twitter references after they found out it was a civilian aircraft.
The investigation done by Bellingcat on this issue is interesting - Bellingcat MH17