Russia scrutinized after Malaysian plane MH17 downed over Ukraine

Malaysia Flight from
Malaysia Flight from

WASHINGTON, July 17, 2014 — Ukrainian authorities confirmed that a Malaysian airliner was shot down over Ukraine today.

The Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 No. 17 was carrying 280 passengers and 15 crew, and was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lampur when it disappeared from radar screens.

The plane’s last known location was over Donetsk, Ukraine, an area held by pro-Russian separatists.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko issued a statement, “We do not exclude that this aircraft was also shot down, and stress that the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not commit any action to defeat the purposes of the air.”

He has also called for the creation of a government commission to investigate the tragedy.

The Malaysian prime minister tweeted, “I am shocked by reports that an MH plane crashed. We are launching an immediate investigation.”

Earlier this week, Russian separatists shot down an AN-26 and an SU-25 aircraft belonging to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. A separatist group, The Donestsk People’s Republic, claimed responsibility for downing the cargo plane.

However, Ukraine blamed the Russian military for shooting down the SU-25. “In this way, Russia has executed another provocation,” the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said in a statement. “The bombardment probably came from air-to-air missiles fired by a pair of Russian Armed Forces aircraft patrolling the border in a certain area.”

The Russian Defense Ministry responded with a statement:

“They ‘expose’ us practically every day with the promise of presenting in due course ‘indisputable evidence,'” the official said, according to Interfax. “And each time these ‘facts’ disappear somewhere, and the mix-up is papered over with new, even more fantastical accusations.”

Russian separatists blame the government of Ukraine for the latest incident, while Kiev denies responsibility and blames separatists.

It is not yet clear whether the plane was in fact shot down or whether there was another reason for the accident.

United States Department of State spokeswoman Jen Psaki tweeted “On reports of tragic Malaysian plane crash: at this time US do not have any conformation of cause, individuals on plane or any addl details”

Earlier today, President Obama and Russian President Putin again spoke about the crisis in Ukraine. The West has consistently urged Putin to pull troops back from the border with Ukraine, while Russia denies involvement in the crisis. The United States yesterday expanded sanctions against Russian companies over the crisis in Ukraine.

Analysts note that the plane, which was flying at approximately 33,000 feet, would have been hit by a long-range surface-to-air missile rather than portable system usually used by separatists.

According to Sen. John McCaine, Ukraine lacks the capability to shoot down a plane at altitude, whereas Russia has that ability. He also notes, however, that we do not want “to jump to conclusions” and reminded the press that the cause of the accident is not yet known.

AP reports that a Facebook post from an adviser in Ukraine’s Interior Ministry says the plane was hit by a missile fired from a Russian-built Buk launcher. AP further reports that some of its journalists saw a similar launcher near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne earlier in the day.

The Buk is a large ground-to-air missile that can reach a maximum altitude between 11,000 and 25,000 meters (approximately 36,000 feet to 85,000 feet).

Earlier this year, Malaysian Air Flight Flight MH370 from Kuala Lampur to Beijing disappeared somewhere in the Southern Indian Ocean. No wreckage from that flight has been recovered.

There does not appear to be any relationship between the two tragedies.

The downing of a passenger plane will heighten international tensions over the crisis in Ukraine. Any proof that separatists were responsible for shooting down the passenger airliner will bring heavy condemnation by the international community, focused on Moscow. The incident will also raise questions about the types and amount of weapons Russia is providing the separatists, and will almost certainly result in increased pressure on Moscow to end the crisis.

Authorities expect answers to what caused the tragedy within the next several days, as experts assess the wreckage.


Next Image: Radar showing plane location at time of dissapearance

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Lisa M. Ruth
Lisa M. Ruth is Editor-in-Chief of CDN. In addition to her editing and leadership duties, she also writes on international events, intelligence, and other topics. She has worked with CDN as a journalist since 2009. Lisa is also President of CTC International Group, Inc., a research and analysis firm in South Florida, providing actionable intelligence to decisionmakers. She started her career at the CIA, where she won several distinguished awards for her service. She holds an MA in international relations from the University of Virginia, and a BA in international relations from George Mason University. She also serves as Chairman of the Board of Horses Healing Hearts, and is involved with several other charitable organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, The Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and AYSO.