UPDATE 5:40PM EDT July 17- US officials have told Fox News that the missile that struck the civilian airliner was either an SA-11 (the missile described in this article) or an SA-20 (also not this missile). The SA-11 was known to be possessed by the separatist militias, however it was not certain that it was operational. If it was the SA-20 the missile was “definitely” fired from Russia.
UPDATE: President Obama comments on Flight MH17
Here is the extent of his statement:
“It is wonderful to be back in Delaware. Before I begin, uh, obviously the world is watching reports of a downed passenger jet near the Russia-Ukraine Border…and it looks like…it may be a terrible tragedy..uh….right now we’re working to determine whether or not there were American citizens on board. That is our first priority. And I have directed my national security team to stay in close contact with the Ukrainian government. The United States will offer any assistance we can to help determine what happened and why. And, as a country, our thoughts and prayers are with all the families and the passengers wherever they call home. I want to thank Jeremy for that introduction…..”
President Obama spoke for less than one minute at his press conference in Delaware before resuming the pre-planned speech in support of the democrats of Delaware. President Obama referred to the Malaysian plane as a ‘downed passenger jet’, suggesting the Administration is accepting the premise that the plane was shot down and did not simply crash.
When the President stated that the ‘United States will offer any assistance….to help determine what happened and why”, this appears to answer a direct plea by the Ukrainians to investigate this crash and other Military transport crashes.
Perhaps the most telling part of his brief comment was in how he referred to keeping in touch with the Ukrainian government but gave no mention to Vladimir Putin, despite the fact that Obama heard about the ‘crash’ from Putin first.
US Intelligence sources have confirmed to various news agencies that the plane was indeed shot down by the BUK missile, however there are reports that they do not agree as to whether it was fired from the Ukrainian or the Russian side of the border. This likely indicates that the firing source was very close to the border.
UPDATE: Unconfirmed reports from Reuters states that 23 Americans were on board the downed airliner.
Possibly TWO aircraft, a civilian jetliner and a Ukrainian military aircraft, have been shot down on July 17th by pro-Russian separatists, according to claims by those (who claim that two aircraft were shot down). 295 souls were on the civilian aircraft, the military transport could carry over 100 troops. We have not confirmed that a second aircraft has been shot down.
Russia’s “Interfax” news agency says that a Malaysian Jet Liner was “shot down at altitude” over the skies of the Ukraine (at 33,000 feet) and crashed in the Ukraine. The alleged shoot down occured just as the aircraft entered into north western Ukraine from Polish air space or just as it was about to leave the Ukraine in the south eastern “Donbas” region, which is experiencing a pro-Russian anti-Ukrainian insurrection.
Flight Aware, which tracks airline flights on a map, shows a loss of signal just as the aircraft entered Ukrainian air space from Poland. The crash site, videotaped by Ukrainian activists in the Donbas region, is in the east.
This has now been confirmed but the Malaysian air 777 did crash and video of the crash site, with a large pillar of black smoke, has been aired. The flight, flight MH17, was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Malaysian Defense Ministry has announced an “investigation” into this incident as a possible shoot-down.
It is considered entirely possible that the Russians have shot this plane down and will blame the Ukrainians in order to use this as a pretense for the feared Russian invasion of the Ukraine. It may have been shot down, if it was, by Pro-Russian militias in the Ukraine, who have shot down aircraft, including a Ukrainian military transport. The Ukrainian military could also have misidentified the aircraft and shot it down or it could have shot it down in order to blame the Russians as a pretext for getting world support against Russia.
That this flight was routed to this region is itself highly unusual. Most international flights are avoiding this region and the airliner would not have had to be diverted very far to avoid Ukrainian air space altogether. This writer’s flight was diverted away from Iraqi air space after it was learned that ISIL fighters had US Stinger anti-air missiles. So this flight path was not at all expected or normal under the circumstances.
The Ukrainian Interior Ministry reported that the Buk-M1-2 anti-air missile brought down the aircraft. An AP Reporter in the region had reported days ago seeing a Russian supplied anti-air missile system in pro-Russian militant hands. Again, this has not been confirmed.
The fact that such an expensive system, capable of shooting down aircraft at 75,000 feet, was apparently given to pro-Russian militias in the eastern Ukraine is a major and unsettling development. Its range is reported to be 20 miles, however it has been reported that an upgraded version of the missile can reach 60 miles. It is doubtful that the system allegedly given to the pro-Russian militias, which first appeared in 1979, is the upgraded system.
If a pro-Russian militia group fired this weapon, it may have believed it was shooting at a Ukrainian transport aircraft, which might have a similar signature on their radar. The weapon uses the launcher’s radar to acquire is target.
In the past few days two Ukrainian aircraft had been shot down by this missile which was launched from Russian territory into Ukrainian air space, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, including both a Ukrainian Transport and a Ukrainian jet fighter.
Regarding the earlier incidents from the past few days, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk called for an international investigation of the three plane crashsd that took place over Donbas since July 14.
“Government calls for a large-scale international investigation into the downing on July 14 in the Luhansk region of the AN-26 Armed Forces of Ukraine on July 16, in the Donetsk region of SU-25 aircraft of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the crash of Malaysian Boeing 777, with the participation of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and European Organisation for the safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL),” Yatseniuk said in a statement.
The Kyiv Post reported: Ukraine’s government confirmed that a Malaysia Airlines passenger airline crashed in the east of the country, close to Russian border. 280 passengers and 15 crew members have been killed, according to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry spokesman Anton Gerashchenko.
Meanwhile the Ukrainian Defense Ministry stated that they are not involved in the incident whatsoever. Pro-Russian militia announced today, at the same time that this flight was shot down, that they had shot down a Ukrainian transport aircraft and have warned the Ukrainians not to enter “their” air space, a threat they had already backed up by shooting down Ukrainian aircraft.
According to the Kyiv Post:
Two Ukrainian Air Force aircraft were shot down in the east of the Donetsk region on July 17 evening, said Ihor Druz, an advisor to the defense minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).
Since then, however, this same group has denied that it has any systems capable of firing at above 10,000 feet. This despite the AP report of seeing the Buk missile in this group’s possession and this despite shoot-downs which allegedly took place at above 10,000 feet.
It begins to appear that pro-Russian militia shot down this aircraft with Russian supplied sophisticated anti-air missiles. This is a serious escalation, as noted, and could lead to “outright war” between Russia and the Ukraine. This could also mean that yet another Ukrainian transport, an An-26, was shot down at the same time and seems to dispel the notion that this aircraft might have been accidentally shot down.
It is anticipated that Ukraine will mobilize all of its reserves soon and prepare a general surge of its forces into the break-away regions, a surge held back by hopes of a diplomatic solution with Russia and the separatists. It is doubtful the Ukrainians will hold off any further which could lead to Russian forces entering the region
The Ukraine is supposed to have an iron clad agreement with Russia, Britain, and the US to guarantee its sovereignty which was made as a condition of giving up its nuclear arsenal. This agreement has yet to be honored since the seizure by Russia of the Crimea and the incursion of Russian forces (along with the provisioning of Russian arms to pro-Russian militias) in eastern Ukraine.
US Naval ships are reported to have tracked this flight and would be able to determine exactly what happened. However, the US has remained silent on this issue so far. The Kremlin has also refrained from commenting. At around the time of the shoot-down, President’s Obama and Putin happened to be meeting. During this meeting, Putin informed Obama of the “crash.”
The following is a transcript released by the Ukrainian Government of an alleged coversation between two men, one a Russian nation in the break-away region in southeastern Ukraine and allegedly a Russian military officer.
Igor Bezler: We have just shot down a plane. Group Minera. It fell down beyond Yenakievo (Donetsk Oblast).Vasili Geranin: Pilots. Where are the pilots?
IB: Gone to search for and photograph the plane. Its smoking.
VG: How many minutes ago?
IB: About 30 minutes ago.
SBU comment: After examining the site of the plane the terrorists come to the conclusion that they have shot down a civilian plane. The next part of the conversation took place about 40 minutes later.
“Major”: These are Chernukhin folks who shot down the plane. From the Chernukhin check point. Those cossacks who are based in Chernukhino.
“Grek”: Yes, Major.
“Major”: The plane fell apart in the air. In the area of Petropavlovskaya mine. The first “200” (code word for dead person). We have found the first “200”. A Civilian.
“Greek”: Well, what do you have there?
“Major”: In short, it was 100 percent a passenger (civilian) aircraft.“Greek”: Are many people there?
“Major”: Holy sh__t! The debris fell right into the yards (of homes).
“Greek”: What kind of aircraft?
“Major”: I haven’t ascertained this. I haven’t been to the main sight. I am only surveying the scene where the first bodies fell. There are the remains of internal brackets, seats and bodies.
“Greek”: Is there anything left of the weapon?“
Major”: Absolutely nothing. Civilian items, medicinal stuff, towels, toilet paper.
“Greek”: Are there documents?
“Major”: Yes, of one Indonesian student. From a university in Thompson.
Militant: Regarding the plane shot down in the area of Snizhne-Torez. It’s a civilian one. Fell down near Grabove. There are lots of corpses of women and children. The Cossacks are out there looking at all this.They say on TV it’s AN-26 transport plane, but they say it’s written Malaysia Airlines on the plane. What was it doing on Ukraine’s territory?
Nikolay Kozitsin: That means they were carrying spies. They shouldn’t be f…cking flying. There is a war going on.
Paul Gordon Collier contributed to parts of this report.