KUALA LUMPUR, July 19 — Russia insisted none of its military’s weapons had entered Ukraine, refuting claims the former superpower supplied the firepower allegedly used by separatist forces that brought down Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH17 and killed all 298 on board.
Russia’s Defence Ministry’s spokesman denied any of its armed forces’ weapons, including its Buk surface-to-air missile systems, crossed its borders into neighbouring Ukraine — where the government and pro-Russian separatists are locked in a civil war.
“It cannot be done secretly,” the unnamed spokesman was quoted saying yesterday by Russian news agency ITAR-TASS.
The spokesman also said Buk specialists do not operate weapons aimed at targets in the air, in response to the Ukraine government’s announcement that it had caught two crew members operating the anti-aircraft missiles.
“Speaking about another allegation by official Kiev about detention of two Buk ‘fire controllers’ who are allegedly citizens of the Russian Federation, we would like to explain that fire controllers are needed only for those weapons whose targets are located on the ground,” the spokesman said.
Malaysia’s passenger jet carrying 298 people and en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed 33,000 feet into the conflict-ridden Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine, near the borders of Russia.
Ukraine’s security service (SBU) released yesterday transcripts of alleged phone calls which it claimed proved that pro-Russian separatists had in hand the Buk-M system that was capable of shooting down the plane and the 298 people on board.
The SBU also listed a chronology of events up until the day MH17 went down, which included Russia allegedly passing the Buk-M missile system to Ukrainian insurgents who control the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic.
SBU also claimed that it had footage showing the crossing of a Buk-M system - with one of its missiles missing - into Russia’s borders the day after the plane’s crash.
“The data we have allow us to state that the plane Boeing 777 was shot down by the Donetsk terrorists with the use of anti-missile system Buk M, which was transferred from Russia’s territory,” the spy agency was quoted by the Ukraine’s English-language newspaper Kyiv Post as saying in a statement.
The July 18 footage was recorded by Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, with its minister Arsen Avakov yesterday saying that it believed the missile system in the video “is the very Buk system which shot at the civilian plane flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur”.
In the early hours of the plane crash, the Ukraine government and pro-Russian insurgents blamed one another for the tragedy.
MAS said air traffic controllers lost contact with MH17 as it flew over eastern Ukraine towards the Russian border, bound for Asia with 280 passengers and 15 crew aboard.
Yesterday, Ukraine confirmed finding as many as 181 dead bodies at the crash site.