US: Can’t Rule Out Russian Role in Plane Downing
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council …
Let me share with you our assessment of the evidence so far:
- We assess Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 carrying these 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was likely downed by a surface-to-air missile, an SA-11, operated from a separatist-held location in eastern Ukraine.
- The airliner was traveling at a cruise altitude of 33,000 feet and its speed was typical for an airliner along an established flight corridor frequented by commercial traffic. The flight was transmitting its assigned transponder code corresponding with its flight plan, and flight tracking data was publicly available on the internet. There was nothing threatening or provocative about MH17.
- Of the operational SAM systems located near the border, only the SA-11, SA-20, and SA-22 SAM systems are capable of hitting an aircraft at this flight’s altitude of 33,000 feet. We can rule out shorter-range SAMs known to be in separatist hands, including MANPADS, SA-8 and SA-13 systems, which are not capable of hitting an aircraft at this altitude
– Early Thursday, an SA-11 SAM system was reported near Snizhne by a Western reporter and separatists were spotted hours before the incident with an SA-11 system at a location close to the site where the plane came down.
- Separatists initially claimed responsibility for shooting down a military transport plane and posted videos that are now being connected to the Malaysian airlines crash. Separatist leaders also boasted on social media about shooting down a plane, but later deleted these messages.
- Because of the technical complexity of the SA-11, it is unlikely that the separatists could effectively operate the system without assistance from knowledgeable personnel. Thus, we cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel in operating the systems.
The Ukrainians do have SA-11 systems in their inventory. However, we are not aware of any Ukrainian SAM systems in the area of the shoot-down. And, more importantly, since the beginning of this crisis, Ukrainian air defenses have not fired a single missile, despite several alleged violations of their airspace by Russian aircraft.
- This also follows a pattern of actions by Russian-backed separatists. On June 13th, separatists shot down a Ukrainian transport plane, carrying 40 paratroopers and nine crew. On June 24th, as this Council was meeting to welcome Ukraine’s unilateral ceasefire, we received word that separatists downed a Ukrainian helicopter, killing all nine on board.
- On July 14th, separatists claimed credit for the downing of a Ukrainian military cargo plane, flying at 6,000 meters, and on July 16, they claimed credit for the downing of a Ukrainian fighter jet.
If indeed Russian-backed separatists were behind this attack on a civilian airliner, they and their backers would have good reason to cover up evidence of their crime. Thus, it is extremely important that an investigation be commenced immediately.