Military experts believe that a Buk surface-to-air missile is to blame for the downing of a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet over eastern Ukraine that killed nearly 300 people Thursday.
In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, the Ukraine government says it has proof that the Russian military was involved in the destruction of flight MH17.
Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, Arsen Avakov, said the Boeing 777 was flying at 33,000 feet. He also said it was hit by a missile fired from the Buk launcher, which can fire up to 72,000 feet in the air, The Associated Press reports.
AP journalists saw a similar launcher, which features four missiles set on top of a tank, near the eastern Ukraine town of Snizhne on Thursday.
Dr. Igor Sutyagin, Research Fellow in Russian Studies from the Royal United Services Institute, believes that MH17 was shot down by rebels in the 3rd District of Torez, in eastern Ukraine, using the Buk missile system, also called SA-11.
He told the Daily Mail information was leaked from an unidentified source that the MH17 pilot “felt bad” about his course over Ukrainian airspace, so he turned south.
According to Dr. Sutyagin, the pilot didn’t know that rebels would mistake his plane for a Ukrainian government resupply flight.
“There is a Ukrainian mechanised brigade blocked by separatists near the Russian boarder,” Sutyagin said. “It's blocked on three sides by separatists and behind the brigade is the Russian boarder, so they can't get out. The Ukrainians try to resupply them from the air by transport aircraft.”
He added: “Several kilometers to the south is a Ukrainian Army heavy transport plane, an IL76, or Candid, which has the same echo as a 777 on a radar screen. The two planes came close. They tried to shoot down the transport delivering supplies to the brigade. They believed that they had been firing at a military plane, but they mistakenly shoot down a civilian airliner.”
The Russian-made missiles were accepted into service around 1980 and were designed to target cruise missiles, fixed and rotary wing aircraft, and smart bombs. The latest edition can also take down drones.
Russia has also sold the missile system to Syria. The Ukraine has Buk missiles in the eastern part of the country and Russian-backed militants may have variations of the weapons.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has refuted claims that his army is to blame for shooting down MH17. The president also called the shoot-down "an act of terrorism" and demanded an international investigation.
“We do not exclude that this plane was shot down, and we stress that the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not take action against any airborne targets,” Poroshenko said, according to the AP. “We are sure that those who are guilty in this tragedy will be held responsible.”
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