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10 more questions Russian military pose to Ukraine, US over MH17 crash

Published time: July 21, 2014 23:23
Edited time: July 23, 2014 12:36
Head of General Staff of the Armed Forces Lt. Gen. Andrey Kartopolov ( left) and chief of the Air Force Main Staff Lt. Gen. Igor Makushev ( right) at a media conference in Moscow, July 21 (RIA Novosti / Vadim Savitsky)

Head of General Staff of the Armed Forces Lt. Gen. Andrey Kartopolov ( left) and chief of the Air Force Main Staff Lt. Gen. Igor Makushev ( right) at a media conference in Moscow, July 21 (RIA Novosti / Vadim Savitsky)

Russia has released military monitoring data, which shows Kiev military jets tracking the MH17 plane shortly before the crash - and posed yet another set of questions to Ukraine and the US over the circumstances of the tragedy.

Military officials – chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces Lt. Gen. Andrey Kartopolov and chief of the Air Force Main Staff Lt. Gen. Igor Makushev - posed a number of questions to Kiev and Washington concerning the possible causes of the catastrophe in Eastern Ukraine that killed almost 300 people last Thursday.

1. Why did the MH17 plane leave the international corridor?

“Please note that the plane stayed within the corridor until it reached Donetsk but then it deviated from the route to the north,” said Kartopolov.

2. Was MH17 leaving the route a navigation mistake or was the crew following instructions by Ukrainian air traffic controllers in Dnepropetrovsk?

“The maximum deviation from the left border of the corridor was 14 km. Following that, we can see the plane maneuvering to return to the corridor, yet the Malaysian crew did not get a chance to complete the maneuver. At 17.20, the plane began to lose speed, and at 17.23 it disappeared from Russian radars.”

3. Why was a large group of air defense systems deployed to the militia-held area if the self-defense forces have no planes?

“As far as we know, the Ukrainian military had three or four air defense battalions equipped with Buk-M1 SAM systems deployed in the vicinity of Donetsk on the day of the crash. This system is capable of hitting targets within the range of 35 km at the altitude of up to 22 km.”

Buk missile defense units in Donetsk Region, 5km north of Donetsk city, on July 14, 2014. (RIA Novosti)

4. Why did Kiev deploy BUK missile systems on the edge of militia-controlled zones directly before the tragedy?

“We have satellite photos of the places where Ukraine had its air defense units deployed in the southeastern parts of the country. The first three photos were made on July 14. The first photo shows Buk launchers 8 km northwest of Lugansk. You can clearly see a TELAR and two TELs. The second photo shows radars 5 km north of Donetsk. You can see two TARs along with other equipment and technical structures. The third photo shows air defense systems north of Donetsk. You can clearly see a TELAR launcher and about 60 military and auxiliary vehicles, tents for vehicles and other structures.

“Here’s a photo of the same area made on July 17. Please note that the launcher has disappeared. The fifth photo shows a battery of Buk missiles at the village of Zaroshchenskoye 50 km east of Donetsk and 8 km south of Shakhtyorsk on the morning of the same day. The sixth photo shows the same area on July 18. As you can see, the battery has left.”

No Buk missile defense units in Donetsk Region, 5km north of Donetsk city, on July 17, 2014. (RIA Novosti)

5. On the day of the crash Kiev intensified Kupol-M1 9S18 radar activity, key BUK system components. Why?

“Also, July 17 saw increased activity on the part of Ukraine’s Kupol-M1 9S18 radars, which are part of the Buk system. Here on this chart you see that there were seven radars operating on July 15, eight radars operating on July 16, and nine radars operating on July 17 in the area. Then, starting with July 18, the intensity of radar activities radically decreased, and now there are no more than two or three radars operating a day. The reason behind this is yet to be found.”

6. What was a military plane doing on the route intended for civilian flights?

“There were three civilian planes in the area performing their regular flights at this time. There was a flight from Copenhagen to Singapore at 17:17, there was a flight from Paris to Taipei at 17:24, and then there was the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.”

“Also, Russian monitoring systems registered that there was a Ukrainian Air Force jet, probably Su-25, climbing and approaching the Malaysian Boeing.”

“The Su-25 was 3-5 km away from the Malaysian plane. Su-25 is capable of climbing to the altitude of 10,000 meters for a short period of time. Its standard armament includes R60 air-to-air missiles, which are capable of locking and hitting targets from 12 km and which are guaranteed to hit the target from the distance of 5 km.”

(RIA Novosti / Vadim Savitsky)

7. Why was the military jet flying at so close to a passenger plane?

“At 17:21’35, with [the Boeing’s] velocity having dropped to 200 kilometers per hour, a new mark detecting an airborne object appears at the spot of the Boeing’s destruction. This new airborne object was continuously detected for the duration of four minutes by the radar stations Ust-Donetsk and Buturinskaya. An air traffic controller requested the characteristics of the new airborne object, but was unable to get any readings on its parameters – most likely due to the fact that the new aircraft was not equipped with a secondary surveillance radar transponder, which is a distinctive feature of military aircraft,” said Makushev.

“Detecting the new aircraft became possible as it started to ascend. Further changes in the airborne object’s coordinates suggest that it was hovering above the Boeing 777’s crash site, monitoring of the situation.

“Ukrainian officials earlier claimed that there were no Ukrainian military aircraft in the area of the crash that day. As you can see, that is not true.”

8. Where did the launcher – from the video circulated by Western media and showing a Buk system being moved allegedly from Ukraine to Russia – come from? As the video was made on the territory controlled by Kiev, where was the launcher being transported?

“I’d like to say that the information we have presented here is based on objective and reliable data from various technical systems – unlike the groundless accusations made against Russia,” said Kartopolov.

“For example, media circulated a video supposedly showing a Buk system being moved from Ukraine to Russia. This is clearly a fabrication. This video was made in the town of Krasnoarmeisk, as evidenced by the billboard you see in the background, advertising a car dealership at 34 Dnepropetrovsk Street. Krasnoarmeysk has been controlled by the Ukrainian military since May 11.”

9. Where is it right now? Why are some of the missiles missing on the launcher? When was the last time a missile was launched from it?

Screenshot from video posted on Ukraine’s Ministry of Interior account, showing a Buk system supposedly being moved from Ukraine to Russia with two out of three missiles.

10. Why haven’t US officials revealed the evidence supporting claims that the MH17 was shot down by a missile launched by the militia?

“US officials claim they have satellite photographs proving the Malaysian airliner was shot down by a missile launched by the militia. But no one has seen these photographs so far. As far as we know, there was indeed a US satellite flying over southeastern Ukraine on July 17 from 17:06 to 17:21 Moscow time.

“This satellite is part of an experimental system designed to track and monitor the launches of missiles of various ranges. If our US colleagues have imagery from this satellite, they should release it for the international community to examine it in detail. This may be a coincidence, but the US satellite flew over Ukraine at exactly the same time when the Malaysian airliner crashed.”

Buk missile defense units in Zaroschinskoe, 50km south of Donetsk city and 8km south of Shakhtyorsk, on July 17, 2014.Photo courtesy of the Russian Defense Ministry

This is not the first time Russia brings up questions on the plane crash. No explanations have followed with Kiev insisting they have full evidence of Russia being behind the attack, but so far only releasing tapes.

The USA, putting the blame on the self-defense forces, has yet refused to release any intelligence material. On Monday State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf described Russia’s statements as “propaganda and misinformation” - but when reporters asked her whether Washington would be releasing their intelligence and satellite data, Harf only replied "may be." So far the US has been backing its statements by social media and "common sense."

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