MH17 witness claims Reuters faked statement blaming rebels for downing plane

File photo of an armed pro-Russian separatist standing at a site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash in the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014. — Reuters pic
File photo of an armed pro-Russian separatist standing at a site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash in the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, March 31 — A Lugansk Region resident claimed Reuters fabricated a statement by him blaming rebel forces for firing the surface-to-air missile that downed Flight MH17, Russia Today reported.

Pyotr Fedotov, a 58-year-old resident of the village Chervonniy Zhovten in the Lugansk Region of eastern Ukraine, was interviewed by Reuters reporter Anton Zverev on March 12 and described seeing a rocket shooting through the sky just before seeing a plane (identified later as MH17) “fall apart in the air.”

“When interviewed by Reuters, Fedotov, the witness who described the ‘wiggling’ rocket, at first said on camera that it was fired from territory held by the Ukrainian army. Later, off camera, he said it was launched from a nearby rebel area. Asked why he had originally said the opposite, he said it was because he was afraid of the rebels,” the Reuters report read.

When contacted by Russia Today, however, Fedotov claimed his so-called “off camera” statement was faked by the news agency’s reporter.

“When we talked about the Boeing on camera, I explained everything as it was,” he told Russia Today. “The things that I allegedly said off-camera were just made up by the journalist. It’s all lies. Off-camera, we never discussed the Boeing.”

Fedotov said he was never shown a draft of the Reuters article, and that Zverev contacted him later to ask if he was in trouble.

“I was really surprised,” he told Russia Today. “Why would I be in trouble if I told the truth?”

Fedotov further described the disputed statement as “mere fantasy from the journalist.”

“(Or) maybe he was doing it for his own benefit,” he said.

Russia Today said it contacted Reuters for comment on this incident via email, but has not received a reply.

Russia Today is a Russian state-funded television network that runs cable and satellite television channels as well as Internet content aimed at audiences outside the Russian Federation.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down from 33,000 feet over Ukrainian airspace on July 17, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew who were en-route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

The plane was initially believed to have been hit by a surface-to-air missile, but Dutch investigators have since reportedly said that it was possibly shot down by a fighter jet.

Kiev and pro-Russian separatist rebels in the restive eastern Ukrainian region have both denied responsibility for the deadly crash.

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