Tag Archives: Moscow

#MH17: US intelligence says Russia ‘created conditions’ for plane disaster

US officials stop short of blaming crash directly on Moscow and say separatists likely shot down plane by accident.

Pro-Russia rebels guard the area around the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 during monitoring by investigators. Photograph: Rob Stothard/GettyPro-Russia rebels guard the area around the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 during monitoring by investigators. Photograph: Rob Stothard/Getty.

US intelligence officials accused Moscow of “creating the conditions” that resulted in the death of 298 people aboard the Malaysian Airlines jet shot down last week over a part of Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed separatists.

But in a partial declassification of US intelligence on Tuesday, officials stopped short of laying the blame for the disaster directly at the door of Russia. The assessment of the US intelligence community is that the separatists shot the plane down by accident.

The newly declassified information largely reaffirmed an account given last Friday by Samantha Power, US ambassador to the United Nations, saying that a missile from an SA-11 anti-aircraft battery in separatist territory shot down the plane.

Officials said training given by Russia to its separatist proxies on air-defense weapons, which they have used in recent weeks to shoot down about a dozen aircraft, was a contributing factor. Ukrainian forces fighting the separatists have yet to fire a surface-to-air missile, intelligence officials said, as their conflict is on the ground.

MH17 shootdown graphic from US intelligence report on the downing of the Malaysian airliner in Ukraine. Photograph: US intelligence communityMH17 shootdown graphic from US intelligence report on the downing of the Malaysian airliner in Ukraine. Photograph: US intelligence community.

Some of the evidence provided by US intelligence – whose fiscal 2013 budget was $68bn – included Facebook posts. “After it became evident that the plane was a civilian airliner, separatists deleted social media posts boasting about shooting down a plane and possessing a Buk (SA-11) surface-to-air missile system,” a senior intelligence official said in the briefing, held on condition of anonymity. The Guardian was not invited to the briefing, a transcription of which was later made available.

Despite enormous international opprobrium placed on Moscow since the crash, intelligence officials said that they believed Russia continues to arm the separatists. They alleged that rocket launchers, other artillery pieces and tanks have transited through a “training facility” in south-west Russia associated with supplies for the separatists.

While the Guardian cannot independently confirm the allegation, satellite imagery released by US intelligence and dated Monday from the Rostov base seems to depict columns of materiel not present in a photo dated two days earlier.

Images of Russian training facility near Ukraine border, from a US intelligence report on the downing of MH17. Photograph: US intelligence communityImages of Russian training facility near Ukraine border, from a US intelligence report on the downing of MH17. Photograph: US intelligence community.

An account by US intelligence of the Buk missile’s trajectory puts its origin at the town of Snizhne, not far from the Russian border. Images posted on social media from Snizhne seem to depict a mobile Buk system.

A still from the 'social media overview' section of a US intelligence report into the downing of MH17. Photograph: US intelligence communityA still from the ‘social media overview’ section of a US intelligence report into the downing of MH17. Photograph: US intelligence community.

An investigation into the destruction of MH17 has barely got under way. Separatists handed over the flight recorder of the plane to Malaysian authorities late on Monday.

US intelligence officials indicated that their timed release of preliminary information was designed to counter claims from the Russian military they consider obfuscatory.

“We are seeing a full-court press by the Russian government to instruct affiliated or friendly elements to manipulate the media,” an intelligence official said.

On Tuesday, international experts began the process of identifying the bodies of those who died in the disaster, after a train carrying their remains arrived in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

Interpol, the international police agency, said one of its teams had begun preliminary identification work on the remains, which will all be flown to the Netherlands this week for fuller identification.

The train, which included three refrigerated wagons, had been loaded by rebels and local emergency workers at Torez station, near the crash site. The rebels said there were 282 bodies and 87 “other fragments” on board and that 16 bodies are yet to be found.

However, on Tuesday night Dutch officials said only 200 bodies had arrived in Kharkiv.

The European Union said on Tuesday that it would expand its sanctions blacklist to target Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and draw up further broad measures including an arms embargo and financial restrictions on Russian businesses.

The Guardian.

BBC News: Russia – how tough a response?

Members of Vladimir Putin's inner circle have been targeted by existing sanctionsMembers of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle have been targeted by existing sanctions.

The rhetoric could scarcely sound tougher but will the reality come close to matching it?

David Cameron, writing in yesterday’s Sunday Times. said that “for too long there has been a reluctance on the part of too many European countries to face up to the implications of what is happening in eastern Ukraine.”

“It is time to make our power, influence and resources count,” he wrote.

Ed Miliband, speaking in Washington DC on Monday, agreed, saying “the international community has not done enough to show that Russian aggression cannot be allowed to stand” and “European unity must not be an excuse for European inaction”.

Whilst Nick Clegg said at his news conference this morning that the EU had so far failed to “act with the right collective resolve,” adding that “we believe the time has now come for sanctions to be tightened further and that is precisely what we will be seeking to deliver in the meetings in the EU later this week”.

So that’s clear enough then. There’s just one problem. The next round of sanctions will not be determined by Britain but by the EU’s 28 member states.


Russia has substantial financial interests in LondonRussia has substantial financial interests in London.

As my colleague Gavin Hewitt – the BBC’s Europe Editor – points out on his blog, Europe has been very tentative in what it’s willing to do to take on Russia and there’s no reason to think that caution won’t continue.

He writes that “Italy with its fragile economy, which continues to hover close to recession, is very dependent on Russian energy. Germany has 6,000 firms which do business in Russia. Some of its leading industrialists have been vocal in opposing sanctions. France has resisted pressure to halt delivery of two Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia.”

You might think that The Netherlands would be leading the way in taking on Russia. Their attitude will, of course, have been changed by last week’s national tragedy but remember that the EU country with the largest trade deficit is, you guessed it, the Netherlands.

The last figures showed that figure to be over 16 billion euros (£12.6bn), according to data from Eurostat.

Some EU countries argue that the most effective sanctions would be financial, stopping Russia accessing the City of London. That, of course, would hit the UK and not the rest of the EU.

City of London
You may recall that in March I revealed the existence of a photograph of a document which a senior official was carrying into a meeting in Downing Street which said that “the UK should not support, for now, trade sanctions or close London’s financial centre to Russians”.

Nothing has changed since then, I’m told.

So, sources tell me that we should expect some gradual movement in Brussels tomorrow rather than a dramatic tightening of the screw.

This is not just for selfish economic reasons but also because many EU countries argue that their best – or maybe their only – hope of getting access to the crash site and getting co-operation with the investigation is to maintain a dialogue with President Putin

In a news conference on Monday, Angela Merkel’s spokeswoman, Christiane Wirtz, said industry-wide sanctions were not being considered but Berlin was prepared to target individual companies.

After speaking to Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande, Mr Cameron said he was “very clear that the EU will be ready to take further steps in terms of other areas, other areas of … some forms of advanced industrial goods that might have dual uses for defence purposes as well”.

In other words, even the deaths of almost 300 people in a crash which most EU countries blame Russian-backed separatists for will not lead directly to what many people will see as a tough response.

BBC News.

Mr Putin do the right thing and give up the terrorists responsible for Flight #MH17

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Whether President Vladimir Putin is personally responsible for arming the terrorists with ground to air missiles or one of his generals the truth will come out! The world calls on Mr Putin to do the right thing now and either own up or give up ALL the people responsible for shooting down flight MH17, if he doesn’t know then he has the means to find out.

This was not an act of war, it was an act of terrorism plain and simple and no stone should be left unturned, and when they are brought to trial it should be the relatives of the victims who decide their fate.

#MH17: Ukraine accuses pro-Russia rebels of taking bodies from crash site

Kiev says pro-Russia rebels have removed bodies from crash site with help from Moscow, and are trying to destroy evidence.

Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 crash site integrity may be compromised, says Malaysia

Ukraine’s government accused pro-Russia rebels on Saturday of removing corpses from the MH17 crash site and destroying evidence.

“Terrorists brought 38 bodies to the mortuary in Donetsk,” the government statement read, adding that Russian experts would presumably perform autopsies. “The terrorists are seeking for the heavy load trucks to carry the plane wreckage to Russia,” the statement added.

A rebel, who identified himself as “Grumpy”, neither confirmed nor denied the claims that bodies had been moved to Donetsk. “Maybe they did it, maybe not,” he said. “I personally didn’t do that.”

On Saturday the rebels fired several shots in the air to prevent journalists from approaching to bodies at the crash site. They also fired the warning shots at OSCE monitors on Friday to prevent them from approaching the wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines flight.

The security of the crash site, outside the village of Grabovo in eastern Ukraine, is crucial to preserving evidence that will determine who and what brought the airliner down, but talks between Kiev and rebels who are in control of it have so far failed to establish a buffer zone where international investigators can work, or to give them access. Continue reading