MH17: Russian official reveals how Ukraine deployed BUK missiles
In court testimony about the MH17 Dutch tragedy, a Russian official revealed how Ukraine deployed 17 BUK missile launchers to eastern Ukraine.
Published: March 9, 2017, 10:55 am
The extent of Ukrainian BUK missile deployments in eastern Ukraine on the day that MH17 was shot down was revealed by Ilya Rogachyov, a Russian Foreign Ministry official. Rogachyov presented evidence to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, where Ukraine is bringing a case against Russia.
London lawyer Samuel Wordsworth QC, a visiting professor at Kings College, is defending Russia in the ICJ against the Ukrainian Government’s claims Vladimir Putin’s federation is financially supporting terrorism by backing “separatists”.
“There is no evidence before the court,” he told the judges, “plausible or otherwise, that Russia provided weaponry to any party with the intent or knowledge that such weaponry be used to shoot down civilian aircraft, as would of course be required under Article 2.1.” Article 2.1 is a key section of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.
The Russian authorities have for the first time revealed Ukraine’s deployment of these BUK missile systems, after satellite photos of some of these launchers were made public earlier.
According to Rogachyov: “It is noteworthy that in the summer of 2014 Ukraine’s 156th air defence regiment armed with BUK-M1 systems was in the area of the conflict. The regiment’s command centre and the first unit were in the area of Avdeyevka, near Donetsk, the second unit was near Mariupol, and the third, near Lugansk. All in all the regiment had 17 BUK-M1 systems at its disposal. All were identical to the one the JIT identified as the weapon that downed the air liner.”
The Malaysian Airlines MH17 air disaster in southeast Ukraine “could have been brought down by an accidental launch of a missile by Ukrainian forces during an anti-aircraft exercise”, Russia’s RIA Novosti agency reported, citing an unnamed source in the Ukrainian defence ministry.
“On July 17 the commanding officer of 156th Anti-Aircraft Regiment was instructed to conduct a training exercise of ground troops stationed near Donetsk, which involved deploying the troops, and carrying out a routine tracking and destroying of targets with the BUK-M1 missile,” the source said.
Military exercises with BUK missiles have been banned since 2001, when a Russian Tu-154 passenger airplane en route from Novosibirsk to Tel Aviv was shot down by the Ukrainian military.
It may well be that Ukraine deployed 17 BUK missile launchers to the war zone of eastern Ukraine in the summer of 2014, but that none of these launchers shot down MH17. It is therefore surprising that that Ukraine’s deployment of these systems was not widely known.
The only report on the tragedy done by the Dutch Safety Board (DSB), released on 13 October 2015, did not determine responsibility for the firing of the BUK missile, but the DSB concluded it had been responsible for the destruction of the airliner.
Rather, they narrowed the likely origin of the BUK missile to a 320 square km area that was contested both by the Donbass militia and units of the Ukrainian military.
“Appendix T”, an assessment by the Dutch security services, concluded that there was no evidence the “separatists” had possession of an operable BUK missile; no evidence that they had the training or expertise to fire such a missile and no evidence of any intention or motive to fire such a missile.
The second report that has been published is an interim report of a criminal investigation team under Dutch leadership and including representatives of the Australian Federal Police (AFP). Their deadline for producing a final report has been extended to 2018.
Another gap in the evidence is the data collected from the two US satellites in geostationary orbit over Donbass at the time — data which Obama administration official John Kerry boasted about after the disaster on August 12, 2014.
Fred Westerbeke, the Dutch head of the criminal inquiry, confirmed in a letter to the Dutch victim’s families in February 2016 that the American satellite data had been provided “confidentially” to the criminal investigation. The report, however, is silent about what those satellite images established. But Westerbeke, also said that “there was no evidence of direct involvement of a Russian unit” in the shoot-down of MH17.
In an agreement signed by Australia, Belgium, Netherlands and Ukraine on 7 August 2014, it was established that nothing shall be published arising out of the DSB or criminal inquiry unless all four parties agree. This effectively gives Ukraine a power of veto over any adverse findings.
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