US: Pro-Russian separatists likely responsible for downing plane; Russians probably helped them

US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power told the UN Security Council today that US believes the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet shot down yesterday over eastern Ukraine was likely shot down by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile located in territory controlled by Russian-backed rebels.

Power added that the US could not rule out the possibility that the Russians taught the rebels how to use the system in order to shoot planes out of the sky.

US intelligence, according to CNN, increasingly believes that the missiles were supplied to the rebels by Russia itself.

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 12.07.17 PM

The Pentagon just said, moments ago, that “it is a sophisticated piece of technology, and it strains credulity to think that it could be used by separatists without at least some measure of Russian support and technical assistance.”

As you know, the passenger jet contained 298 people, over 100 of whom were reportedly on their way to the annual international AIDS conference, taking place this year in Melbourne, Australia.

Among the passengers killed, 154 Dutch, 27 Australians, 23 Malaysians, 11 Indonesians, 6 Brits, 4 Germans, and 4 Belgians, among others.

Russian-backed separatist leaders bragged yesterday on social media that they had in fact shot the plane down. After it was discovered that the plane was in fact civilian, and not military, the Russian operative then deleted his confession, but not before I and others grabbed a copy.

CNN added that, “a U.S. defense official said a preliminary classified U.S. intelligence analysis had concluded that the missile that hit Flight 17 most likely was fired by pro-Russian separatists inside eastern Ukraine.”

This was a key point that came up yesterday — regardless of how the rebels got the missiles, they’re apparently a rather complicated system to operate. And thus, did the Russians sign on to, or come up with, the plan to shoot down planes over Ukrainian airspace, and then teach their surrogates to do just that?  If that’s the case, then this isn’t just a random mistake, it’s exactly what the Russians knew would happen, and wanted to happen. From reports I heard yesterday on the news, the Russians would have had to have known that while their rebels could shoot down any plane they wanted, it would be difficult for the rebels to discern whether the plane was civilian or military. But the Russians, it may turn out, simply didn’t care. Anything to create turmoil.

At the same time, Russia’s rebels have now reportedly opened fire on OSCE investigators, and are refusing to give the impartial investigators access to the wreckage.

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 12.01.46 PM Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 12.00.28 PM

One assumes that, since the plane was likely shot down by Russian surrogates, Russia now wants to get the evidence, including the black box, and destroy it.

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CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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39 Responses to “US: Pro-Russian separatists likely responsible for downing plane; Russians probably helped them”

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  7. LanceThruster says:

    It’s a sad state of affairs for the first instinct to be to doubt the official narrative…but totally necessary in this world.

  8. ehjay00 says:

    This incident was avoidable if the Captain of MH17 and Ukraine’s Air Traffic controller had fulfilled their responsibility.

    The US Navy had no legitimate reason for shooting down Iran Air 655 and killing 290 people.
    But of course at that time, Ronald Reagan was openly providing funding and weapons to Saddam, so the Captain of the Vincennes fear was that the airliner was an aircraft that was going to attack them. That caused him to order it shot down. No admission of error or apology was ever given by Washington for the 290 (66 children) that they killed 25 years ago. Just USD. Russia shot down KAL 007 for the same reason as the US Navy, fear.

    If it can be proven that it wasn’t Kiev’s military that fired the missile, I think Putin will suggest that the Separatists apologize. Putin is responsible for what his military does, not the Separatist in Ukraine. America, UK, Russia, and many countries supply weapons that are used by rebels and separatists for war.

  9. ehjay00 says:

    Dear FLL — You have locked your common sense in the closet. Washington correctly states that it was a Russian missile that downed MH17. But they can say nothing more because both sides in Ukraine’s civil war have Russian missiles. It is pure conjecture to presume who fired it.

    You assume (and you know what that implies) that the Separatists are controlled by Russia because you have allowed your mind to accept statements without proof. That is the purpose for propaganda, to give an opinion to you.

    If you put on your scuba gear and leave the surface of shallow thinking, you will understand these points. An airline Captain’s duty is to refuse to accept any flight plan that will endanger his passengers. The rule everywhere is #1 Safety, #2 Comfort, #3 Schedule. The Captain of MH17 made Schedule #1 and paid the price. The world has thousands of DANGER zones that pilots must avoid and that ATC warns them of. Many of them are military weapons ranges.

    Ukraine’s ATC was incompetent and negligent of their duty. The duty of ATC is to warn the Captain that he is endangering his flight and demand that he change his course.

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  13. FLL says:

    Nicho may not be talking about the Rapture, in which the believer’s entire body is taken up to heaven, but rather the Partial Rapture, in which only the believer’s big mouth is taken up to heaven.

  14. FLL says:

    I get the distinct impression that Americablog’s resident Putin fanboys are desperately yearning for some good news. I’ll let Anna Merkel get their attention first.

    Anna Merkel gets on the loudspeaker and announces in English, with a heavy German accent:
    “I have some good news and some bad news.”

    Well, Putin fanboys, that was fun. First, the good news. I’m sure Putin will consolidate his position as president of Russia and will remain such for at least a while longer, so you’ll still be able to get your jollies watching his repression of civil rights in general and Russia’s gay population in particular. Now for the bad news. The so-called Donetsk People’s Republic is toast. I really don’t think I’m making a prediction because it’s happening as I type. Ukrainian troops have just retaken part of the city of Luhansk, Ukraine’s easternmost province, just northeast of Donetsk province. It’s over, gentle reader. The beginning of the end for Igor Girkin, the “defense minister” of the DPR, and his pals. The BBC posted this article at 5:40 pm, Eastern Time. Read and weep, Putin fanboys:

  15. mirror says:

    You are like a Rapturist talking gleefully about the seven years of hell that will come after the chosen are taken up to heaven.

  16. Bill_Perdue says:

    McCains complaint that the Obama regime does not have a policy of empire building and warmongering is ludicrous.

    McCain, as usual is wrong. Events in Ukraine, Libya, Palestine, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq (before Obama was humiliated and forced to leave, and again now that he’s sent troops back), Afghanistan, and Pakistan is proof beyond question that the Obama regime will use any opportunity to attack nations and steal their resources, or in the case of Ukraine, the shirts off of the backs of workers by imposing austerity.

    “McCain’s own tale of his torture and the confession he recorded for the North Vietnamese comes largely from his book Faith of My Fathers, in which he describes his shame at cooperating with the enemy. But some of McCain’s fellow prisoners, who were tortured and did not collaborate, have challenged his narrative, expressing their belief that McCain was not physically abused at all and that he was well treated. Others who were also in the prison camp dispute that claim. But by McCain’s own account he may have begun cooperating with the North Vietnamese within three days of his capture and was fully on board within two weeks, providing specific intelligence on his aircraft carrier, its aircraft, and the support vessels attached to it, information that was later featured in North Vietnamese radio broadcasts. One account that appeared on a wire service entitled “PW Songbird is Pilot Son of Admiral” reported that McCain may have gone beyond an acceptable level of collaboration in assisting the psychological warfare offensives aimed at American servicemen: “The broadcast was beamed to American servicemen in South Vietnam as a part of a propaganda series attempting to counter charges by U.S. Defense Secretary Melvin Laird that American prisoners are being mistreated in North Vietnam.”

    “Douglas Valentine, in a 2008 article in Counterpunch, describes how “On one occasion, General Vo Nguyen Giap, the top Vietnamese commander and a nationalist celebrity of the time, personally interviewed McCain. His compliance during this command performance was a moment of affirmation for the Vietnamese. His Vietnamese handlers thereafter used him regularly as prop at meetings with foreign delegations.”

  17. Dave of the Jungle says:

    As expected, John McCain has blamed the Obama Administration for the incident:

  18. Bill_Perdue says:


    US backing for the fascist putsch last year is the sole and direct reason for the out breaks of class and civil violence. That includes compensating the many victims of fascist violence like this: “More than 30 people were killed in violent and chaotic clashes in the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa on Friday as pro-Ukraine activists stormed a building defended by protesters opposed to the current government in Kiev and in favour of closer ties with Russia. … Odessa’s large Soviet-era trade union building was set alight on Friday as the pro-Ukraine activists mounted an assault as dusk fell. Police said at least 31 people choked to death on smoke or were killed when jumping out of windows after the trade union building was set on fire.

    What’s needed is the convocation of an International War Crimes Tribunal to investigate US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, the Ukraine and elsewhere.

  19. Bill_Perdue says:

    Civilian airlines should avoid war zones where advanced SAMs are in common use. The Ukraine has been an active war zone since the US backed fascist putsch last year which precipitated the current civil and class warfare.

    Attacks on civilian aircraft occur fairly commonly in war zones, especially when the US military is involved. “Iran Air Flight 655 was an Iran Air civilian passenger flight from Tehran to Dubai that was shot down by the United States Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes on 3 July 1988. The attack took place in Iranian airspace, over Iran’s territorial waters in the Persian Gulf, and on the flight’s usual flight path. The aircraft, an Airbus A300 B2-203, was destroyed by SM-2MR surface-to-air missiles fired from the Vincennes. … All 290 on board, including 66 children and 16 crew, died” wiki

  20. FLL says:

    If that’s the case, then Putin, Igor Girkin et al might luck out, and all the lawsuits might be directed at Malaysia Airlines. The consequences for Putin would be economic sanctions from most of the world, but not lawsuits from the victims’ families.

  21. BeccaM says:

    In some of the accounts I saw yesterday, Chris Hayes’ show being one of them, apparently many of the airlines have chosen to avoid flying over parts of Ukrainian airspace, due to the hostilities.

  22. FLL says:

    I don’t know. I’m sure there will be any number of lawsuits, and the grand total will come close to a billion dollars. I agree with you that Putin and his band of thugs have the clout to avoid being forced to compensate victims. But what a strange situation that puts the world in. A nuclear-armed dictator ignores demands from the rest of the world to compensate the victims. That doesn’t bode well for Putin’s personal popularity in Russia.

  23. heimaey says:

    Yeah, I suppose. Have other airlines been avoiding that path? Did they view it as a real threat? I’m asking because I really don’t know. If other airlines were following a similar path, but they were the first to get hit would that impact the results?

  24. Fortunately, they didn’t ;)

  25. FLL says:

    That leaves the financial burden on Malaysia Airlines, assuming that it can be shown, as BeccaM suggests below, that Malaysia Airlines could have chosen a safer flight path.

  26. heimaey says:

    There is no way Russians are going to be brought to justice. That barely happens in America. You think a bunch of oligarchs are going to pay for this? Forget about it.

  27. FLL says:

    I didn’t think about that. You’re right, Malaysia Airlines could be found guilty of negligence. I think that’s a factor in tort law. But I still think the Russian government may be found liable as well for supplying the separatists with the military hardware and training that gave them the ability to shoot down the plane.

  28. BeccaM says:

    Oh there is one way Malaysian Airlines could be found liable: Choosing a flight route over a known war zone. If there’s evidence they went that way to save money on fuel costs, and ignored the potential dangers, especially since it -appears- to have been known beforehand that the separatists did have access to anti-aircraft weaponry…

  29. FLL says:

    This story won’t go away anytime soon if for no other reason than the financial repercussions. After the Tenerife Airport disaster in 1977, the deadliest crash in history with 583 victims, KLM Airlines eventually paid a total of $426 million in compensation to the families of the victims. That amounts to $1.7 billion in today’s money. Who, may I ask, is going to compensate the families of the 298 victims. Certainly Malaysia Airlines cannot be held responsible because the disaster was none of their doing. Some thugs in Donetsk province like Igor Girkin, the self-proclaimed defense minister of the “Donetsk People’s Republic”? I don’t think Girkin as a billion dollars spare change. I think Girkin’s employer, which is Putin’s regime, will wind up coughing up a fair amount of compensation money. That may be why the Russian stock market dropped so sharply yesterday. Anyone have any thoughts about… ahem…

    the financial compensation issue?

  30. BeccaM says:

    “(The SA-11 BUK missile launcher) is a sophisticated piece of technology, and it strains credulity to think that it could be used by separatists without at least some measure of Russian support and technical assistance.”

    That’s what I was saying yesterday. The BUK mobile launcher isn’t a weapon system some random separatist rebels can capture and figure out how to operate by reading the glove-box owner’s manual. It’s not like a video game console or fictionalized weapon out of a Hollywood movie.

    They had help. Whether it’s actual Russian soldiers, or deep-cover special forces, or mutinous ex-Ukrainian/pro-Russia army BUK operators, or ex-military mercenaries (like the kind the U.S. was sending to El Salvador and Nicaragua in the 80s) — but they had expert help of some kind. Radar operator and missile specialist, at minimum.

  31. FLL says:

    That was the gist of Putin’s statement yesterday. You do not get any points for originality here. You do realize that only fundamentalist Xtians like Scott Lively and AFA’s Bryan Fischer admire the impressively homophobic (and devoutly Christian) Putin, right? Wait a minute. Now that I think about it, your past commentary has included some occasional musing about the correct form of Christianity and the special place that Christianity should have in the world. Hmmm.

  32. nicho says:

    If only Barry Obama, Victoria Nuland, and the other neoliberal closet PNACers hadn’t spent billions of dollars destabilizing Ukraine and installing a gang of neo-Nazi thugs in Kiev, this probably wouldn’t have happened.

  33. Drew2u says:

    Is it possible to have independent verification from other countries as backup sources or is the ability to gather this kind of evidence limited to U.S. intelligence?

    Granted I’m more inclined to believe whatever comes from this administration than, say, a Romney/McCain/Cheney admin, I would still feel more comfortable if a different country could confirm the U.S.’s findings.

  34. Badgerite says:

    I think the US has stayed out of it militarily til now, but after this, I’m not so sure that will remain the case.

  35. heimaey says:

    If this escalates into a big war, I hope they only draft republicans.

  36. mirror says:

    I only just got it that by denying access to the site, they are leaving the bodies to bloat and decompose, not to mention be looted. Whatever their involvement in the attack, there is no doubt the Russians could force them to allow access to the site. Putin and his gang must really enjoy putting the bloody horse head in the West’s bed.

  37. bkmn says:

    Please don’t forget about the Republicans and right wingers that were full of praise for Putin a couple of weeks ago. They helped egg him on. Putin’s fingerprints are on that downed plane and all the victims.

  38. Demosthenes says:

    Pres. Putin acts like the ex-Soviet KGB operative that he is. Rather than admitting to this act and saying it’s a mistake, he seeks to cover it up. He is a vile human being.

  39. Elijah Shalis says:

    Don’t forget that 1 American was killed and maybe 23 Americans waiting to be confirmed. We need to ARM ukraine with M1a1 tanks and see how these seperatists do.

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