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An armed pro-Russia militant attempts to stop journalists from accessing the site of the crash of a Malaysia Airlines plane carrying 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in Grabove, in rebel-held east Ukraine, on July 19, 2014 © AFP
BERLIN – Germany’s BND foreign intelligence agency has concluded that pro-Russian rebels are to blame for the downing of Malaysia Airline MH17 in Ukraine in July, Der Spiegel weekly reported on Sunday, the first European agency to say so.
The crash over pro-Russian rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine on July 17 killed all 298 passengers and crew and led to a further deterioration of ties between the West and Moscow, who are in dispute over Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis.
Gerhard Schindler, president of the BND, told a secret parliamentary committee on security affairs earlier this month that separatists had used a Russian Buk missile defence system from a Ukrainian base to fire a rocket that exploded directly next to the Malyasia Air plane, Der Spiegel reported.
“It was pro-Russian separatists,” the magazine quoted him as saying.
The BND concluded the rebels were to blame after a detailed analysis based on satellite and other photos, Der Spiegel said. Noone at the BND was immediately available to comment.
Kiev blames the incident on the rebels and accused Moscow of arming them, but the rebels and Moscow deny the accusations.
European governments have so far refrained from openly pointing the finger, but shortly after the crash U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said there was strong evidence that Moscow-backed separatists had downed the plane.
The Dutch government, which has two investigations underway into the downing of the airliner, has yet to say who was responsible. Two thirds of the passengers were Dutch.
A preliminary report by the Dutch Safety Board last month said the airliner crashed due to a “large number of high-energy objects” from outside the aircraft. It drew no conclusions as to where they came from.
Opposition leader says Russian president is ‘thumbing his nose’ at the rest of the world over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17.
Shorten said Putin knew more about the plane tragedy than he had let on so far. Photograph: Alexey Druginyn / Ria Novosti / EPA
Gay Alcorn and agencies
Australia should not welcome Vladimir Putin to the G20 summit because the Russian leader is “thumbing his nose” at the rest of the world over the shooting down of MH17, the opposition leader Bill Shorten says.
The government has confirmed the Russian president will attend the summit in Brisbane in November.
Shorten said there was plenty of evidence pointing to Russian involvement in the 17 July downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine, in which 38 Australian citizens and residents were among the 298 dead.
Ukraine and western countries have accused Russian-based rebels of shooting down the plane with a Russian-made missile, allegations Putin has denied.
“It was an act of murder,” Shorten told reporters in Melbourne on Monday. “How is it that the president of the Russian Federation, Putin, can thumb his nose at the rest of the world, go wherever he wants, without there being any repercussions or any cooperation with the independent investigation as to how this happened?” He said Putin knew more about the plane tragedy than he had let on so far.
“I happen to think that when you deal with an international bully the way you do it isn’t by laying out the red carpet, so no, I don’t think he’s welcome, I don’t think most Australians want him here.”
The Labor leader said Tony Abbott should not meet Putin.
“I wouldn’t give him the time of day,” Shorten said.
On Sunday Shorten said he thought most Australians would be “extremely uncomfortable” about welcoming Putin.
Paul Guard, whose parents, Roger and Jill Guard, were killed in the MH17 crash, said little would be achieved by Putin staying away from the G20 leaders’ summit next month.
“It wouldn’t achieve much by uninviting him because dialogue is the way forward and I hope the G20 might be a good platform on which to strongly voice our disapproval of his government’s policy and approach to Ukraine,” Guard told Guardian Australia.
“It might be uncomfortable for people to shake hands with him (but) at the end of the day, what do you achieve by not inviting someone like that? It would only play to his domestic politics.”
Guard pointed out that Australia had little say in the matter. Russia is a member of the G20 and the federal government has indicated there was little support from other members to exclude the Russian president.
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott has warned he intends to use tough language with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Australia next month in demanding full Russian cooperation with the Dutch investigation into the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner in July.
Putin has confirmed that he will attend next month’s summit of the world’s 20 biggest economies, being held in Australia’s east coast city of Brisbane.
Abbott told reporters on Monday he will seek a bilateral meeting with Putin about Russian-backed rebels shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine on July 17. The attack killed 298 people, including 38 Australian citizens and residents.
Abbott says he expects his conversation with Putin will be the toughest that the Russian leader has at the summit.
Dutch prosecutors say Australian man had mask around neck, raising questions over what passengers may have known of fate.
A traveller at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport looks at tributes to victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash. Photograph: Action Press/Rex Features
Associated Press in The Hague
The body of one passenger on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was found wearing an oxygen mask, Dutch prosecutors said on Thursday, raising questions about how much those on board knew about their fate when the plane crashed in eastern Ukraine in July.
The passenger, an Australian, did not have the mask on his face but around his neck, said Wim de Bruin, a spokesman for the Dutch national prosecutor’s office, which is carrying out a criminal investigation into the disaster.
De Bruin said Dutch forensic experts investigated the mask “for fingerprints, saliva and DNA and that did not produce any results. So it is not known how or when that mask got around the neck of the victim.”
De Bruin said no other bodies recovered from the wreckage were found wearing masks. He also said he did not know where in the plane the Australian victim was sitting.
All 298 passengers and crew died when the aircraft flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed on 17 July. Dutch air crash investigators said last month it was probably struck by a number of “high-energy objects from outside the aircraft”, which some aviation experts say is consistent with a missile strike.
The head of the criminal investigation said the most likely of possible scenarios being investigated was that the Boeing 777 was shot down from the ground.
Relatives of the Australian passenger were told about the mask as soon as it was discovered, but families of other victims heard about it for the first time when the Dutch foreign minister, Frans Timmermans, mentioned it during an interview on a late-night talk show on Wednesday.
Relatives of victims began calling investigators on Thursday to ask about the comments, De Bruin said.
The foreign ministry issued a statement saying Timmermans regrets his comments.
“I have an enormous amount of sympathy for the next-of-kin,” he said. “The last thing I want to do is compound their suffering in this way.”
By Olivia Crellin.
A German company is offering a $30 million bounty for the identities of the individuals responsible for downing Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine this summer.
Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine are suspected of firing surface-to-air missiles at the civilian aircraft, which crashed July 17 while flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 people on board. A preliminary report carried out by Dutch investigators said that the crash was the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that struck the Boeing plane from the outside.
Wifka, an independent German fraud investigation company, said that the money — provided by an anonymous client — will not be given away lightly. The reward will only be delivered to someone able to give detailed information on who shot down MH17, who gave the order to shoot down the plane, and who is covering up their tracks, according to Wifka.
“After the terrible assassination or ‘accident,’ all political parties, at home and abroad, said they owed it to the victims, their families and the public to clarify the circumstances of the crash and present evidence for what happened,” the company said in a statement. “None of this has yet been done.”
The list of requirements for the reward also includes information on whether the plane was shot by accident or out of political, economic, or military motivation. The company is also seeking details of the circumstances that led to the incident, the weapon used, and what happened to the people involved.
“The money is securely deposited in Zurich, Switzerland,” Wifka said. “It will be paid there or in a different neutral place of the whistle-blower’s choice.”
The company added that their client has also offered to give the tipster a new identity if necessary.
Concessions to Rebels
Two months exactly from the day of the MH17 crash, Ukraine is still in turmoil. Despite the announcement of a ceasefire 12 days ago, Ukrainian troops have been pushed back on multiple fronts in the last two weeks.
Amnesty offers from President Petro Poroshenko to those who had not committed serious crimes in the east have been largely rejected, and Ukraine’s parliament approved laws Tuesday that give rebels de facto control of parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, a move that has infuriated many protesters and activists.
Vitaly Zhuravsky, an MP who belongs to a party described as pro-Russian, was thrown by angry crowds into a dumpster.
Ukrainian lawmakers did manage to ratify an agreement Tuesday that brings the country closer to joining the European Union. The pact is the same one that former president Viktor Yanukovych backed out of signing last year, leading to the protests that sparked the revolution and ongoing conflict that has so far killed more than 3,000 and displaced 310,000.
“No nation has ever paid such a high price to become Europeans,” Poroshenko said, referring to soldiers killed in the fighting and the early deaths of anti-government protesters.
The agreement would make Ukraine compliant with EU standards in the areas of human rights, security, and arms control. It would also have removed trade barriers, but negotiations with Russia last week led to the postponement of the free-trade aspect of the agreement until 2016.
Poroshenko, a candy magnate-turned-politician who won 54 percent of the vote in the election following Yanukovych’s removal, told an audience of political experts, journalists, and senior European officials gathered in Kiev on September 13 that there could be “no military solution to this conflict.”
Despite the ceasefire, NATO officials said this week that about 1,000 Russian troops remain on Ukrainian soil. Six people were killed by crossfire when rebels attacked Donetsk airport on Sunday.
Seeking More US Aid
A diplomatic solution to the conflict will be undoubtedly be on Poroshenko’s agenda when he arrives Thursday in Washington to address Congress and speak with President Barack Obama. The country’s parliamentary elections are due to be held October 26.
More economic and military aid from the US will also be a topic of discussion, although concerns about corruption, as well as fears about escalating the military conflict with Russia, mean that Poroshenko could leave Washington empty handed.
Paving the way for more government accountability, Ukraine passed a law Tuesday that allows the removal of corrupt officials from their positions. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk has said that Ukraine will screen roughly 1 million civil servants to root out lingering corruption from the previous regime. The law targets individuals who worked under Yanukovych, as well as former senior members of the Communist Party and KGB.
The US and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have already pledged a total of $60 million in non-lethal aid, which includes food rations, body armor, and communications equipment, plus $17 billion in bailout money. Ukraine’s Central Bank says that the country’s economy may shrink up to 10 percent this year.