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by
Bryan Preston

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July 17, 2014 - 1:18 pm

The outlines of what happened today in Ukraine are starting to emerge.

Pro-Russian rebels recently obtained Russian-made BUK surface-to-air missiles. These missiles have a vertical range of 72,000 feet, making them more than capable of shooting down a civilian airliner, and also of shooting down most military aircraft.

The rebels have in fact shot down two Ukrainian military aircraft this week, a cargo transport and a fighter jet.

Today, they fired on another aircraft and brought it down. They bragged about it on social media, and warned Ukraine not to fly in that area again.

They had a video crew on hand to capture their moment of triumph.

Then they arrived at the scene, expecting to find trophies of war.

Instead, they found horror. The rebels had used Russian gear to shoot down a civilian airliner.

The rebels called Russia to report what happened. That phone call and a subsequent one between two rebels was intercepted by Ukraine. Kyiv Post has translated both.

One phone call apparently was made at 4:40 p.m. Kyiv time, or 20 minutes after the plane crash, by Igor Bezler, who the SBU says is a Russian military intelligence officer and leading commander of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. He reports to a person identified by Ukraine’s SBU as a colonel in the main intelligence department of the general headquarters of the armed forces of the Russian Federation Vasili Geranin regarding the shot down plane, which is about to be examined by the militants.

The second intercepted conversation released by the Security Service of Ukraine was apparently between militants nicknamed “Major” and “Greek” immediately upon inspection of the crash site.

“It’s 100 percent a passenger (civilian) aircraft,” Major is recorded as saying, as he admitted to seeing no weapons on site. “Absolutely nothing. Civilian items, medicinal stuff, towels, toilet paper.”

In the transcript, one of the rebels appears to hope that there are no Russian fingerprints on the shootdown.

“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 [sic]. 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?

If there are no traces of the weapon left, Russia can claim that someone else shot the aircraft down, to create confusion if nothing else.

That’s just what Russia is doing. Russia’s western mouthpiece, Russia Today, reports that Ukraine deployed BUK systems in the region recently, suggesting that Ukraine fired the missile.

Fox reported earlier that the Russians are saying that the missile was a Ukrainian fire aimed at Putin himself. Obviously that would absolve Russia and become a causus belli for Russia to fully invade Ukraine. If it was true, which it isn’t.

Bryan Preston has been a leading conservative blogger and opinionator since founding his first blog in 2001. Bryan is a military veteran, worked for NASA, was a founding blogger and producer at Hot Air, was producer of the Laura Ingraham Show and, most recently before joining PJM, was Communications Director of the Republican Party of Texas.
All Comments   (39)
All Comments   (39)
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Whether this report is true or not (???) doesn't much matter. We have satellite based systems that traced the entire trajectory of the missile, all the way to the doomed airliner. We know where it came from and who fired it ... we almost certainly have extreme hi resolution sat photos of the launch crew, including their faces and uniforms.

Secondly, after all, we do have NSA which is capable of intercepting virtually any and all telephone calls in the world, and most certainy we're monitoring them 24/7/365.

Thirdly, there is no such thing as a pro-Russian militia that would ever acquire and know how to use a sophisticated SAM system (this isn't a MANPAD or some idiot-proof handheld rocket). These are Russian Army people, dressed up as militia Everybody knows that. Putin is fooling nobody.

The Russians did it. Not with the intent to shoot down a civilian airliner, but certainly as a matter of mistaken identity and a gross effup. Shows what kind of fools and idiots populate the modern Russian Army ... they are far cry from the old Cold War Soviet forces.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Who do you think those pro-Russian militia are?
All of them have gone through Russian or Ukrainian mandatory military service after having been drafted.
Statistically, a number of them had served in Air Defense, and been given the appropriate training.
So, there goes the argument about knowing how to use it. They would have no problem gathering a trained crew for a couple of those complexes.

Acquiring them is less clear cut, and I would certainly rate the Russians giving them the equipment as more probable, but with all the split in the Ukrainian army during the recent events, there have been instances of tanks and other equipment simply being "walked" by their crews to the separatists. Why would this AA stuff be any different?
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Militia" is a fraud ... they are and always have been staffed, officered, and supplied by the Russian Army. There maybe be some Ukrainian locals involved, but they are only window dressing for the Russian Army.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't know how you can state that with certainty.

The divide there is genuine, and there are plenty of Russian loyalists in that area who would not hesitate in joining the fight.
Sure, there are Russian SF there, probably doing more work than those "advisers" we sometimes have in places we are not supposed to be in. And yes, they have certainly helped get the party going, both in Eastern Ukraine and, more efficiently, in Crimea.

But there is no doubt in my mind that the majority of those people are locals. Those Cossacks (the current parody of the old ones) are local, and they are unabashedly pro-Russian, always have been.
Look at all those Ukrainian soldiers/sailors who'd switched their allegiance.

There is no shortage of volunteers to staff that "rebel militia."

Some of my in-laws still live in Eastern Ukraine, and while they are completely on Ukraine's side and hate Russia (they really hate it by now), they also don't claim that it's all the Russian Army that's doing the fighting. Of course, there are some Russian SF among them, but the vast majority of the cannon fodder, including leadership, is local.

Look, the Ukraine is not a blameless lamb in all of this. Those ethnic Russians have deeply held legitimate grievances, and the ethnic Ukrainian majority has screwed them over in several ways after the fall of the Soviet Union. No doubt thanks, in large part, to having been screwed over -- long, hard and repeatedly -- by the Russians under the USSR and before.

There is no shortage of motivation there. There is no need to have the bona fide Russian Army there to get and keep that conflict going. Helping here and there? Sure. Supplied? Certainly. But not "staffed and officered."
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
"we almost certainly have extreme hi resolution sat photos of the launch crew, including their faces and uniforms."

Only if we happened to have a satellite taking pictures at the right time and right place. Highly unlikely.

10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nope - a number of off the record reports are already out there that we've been monitoring the Russian-Ukraine border for weeks now, looking specifically for this kind of info. We would be extremely negligent if we did not. I understand we have already tracked the missile track to the aircraft witth precision of finer than 10 cm. That would be satellite photography.

We had this technology approximatey 40 years ago during the Cold War. With modern data transmision and processing our capabilities are much better now, obviously, than they were 40 years ago. This isn't something our government likest to talk about, obviously. The satellites never go to sleep, they never stop monitoring. The Russians, owners of the world's largest nuclear missile force, are obviously of supreme importance as a tracking target.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Then we are negligent. Things have been pretty active there for a while now, what with the Ukrainians being on offense and all.

Then again, given how many hot spots there are now, thanks to this Era of Tranquility produced by our Idiot In Chief, maybe we just rated a hot war breaking out between Russia and Ukraine as lower priority.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Pro-Russian Rebels Admit Downing MH17 in Intercepted Phone Call"

More accurately, the Ukrainians claim to have intercepted a call saying that.

I have doubts about the reporting. Its way too convenient for the Ukrainians to have not only intercepted a call from one intelligence officer to another but to have analyzed, transcripted and reported it so fast.

I seriously doubt that a GRU officer assigned to a seekrit "rebel" cell would call his boss - another GRU intelligence officer - on an unsecure phone.

In other words, not buying the reporting from the Ukrainians yet.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
The intercepted conversation is a fake. In the full transcript (linked in the article) there is a reference to "We have just shot down a plane. Group Minera." The more correct translation is "Miner's Goup". Miner (a nickname) was one of the rebels commanders. But he deserted on July 4th, which was publicly announced by the rebels.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Come on Bryan; your article reads like a cheap dime novel. Instantly intercepted phone calls, Russian majors, and 'the Greek.' Pure Washington propaganda. You might want to take note that the Democrats have been spewing your identical line all afternoon. What does that tell you?

Russia has nothing to gain by such an action which should properly be condemned by the international community. Washington, frustrated that its CIA/State Dept sponsored Ukraine coup has not yet dragged that country into the EU for looting, has everyting to gain by this event.

Bryan, stop besmirching the PJ website by giving us insulting propaganda.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Like the Russians had nothing to gain by downing Korean Airlines flight 700?
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Time to tell Russia to close the border and turn over anyone who crossed the border. Putin will refuse, then NATO fleets must blockade Crimea.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Eric, that is silly given that the intercepts show it was a mistake. This is negligence and merits compensation. It's about money for the families of the victims plus honor for their governments.

Sure Russia has invaded the Ukraine, and that is a bad thing for everyone but the Ukrainians, for whom it is a disaster. The world is a hard place and it's not our job to make it better. I expect the Ukrainians will win and ethnically cleanse both the Ukraine and the Crimea of ethnic Russians, at a horrible cost. But it's not our fight.

Now since Putin will stiff the victims' families, there are things we can do, but the problem is that he's a Latin American caudillo who doesn't give a rip about his own country. The worst thing we can do to Russia is make them keep Putin as their Mr. Big until he dies of senile dementia, and that's what he wants anyway.

Which doesn't leave us with many options save to allow our judicial system to be used by all the victims' families, not merely the American ones, to obtain $10 million civil judgments each (a total of about $3 billion). I'm sure the Ukraine will happily let the victims' families collect the $3 billion against the natural gas money the Ukraine has to pay the Russian government.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Sure Russia has invaded the Ukraine, and that is a bad thing for everyone but the Ukrainians, for whom it is a disaster. The world is a hard place and it's not our job to make it better."

Yes it is. It certainly is. History past and recent teach the intelligent, that your firewalls go out well away from your house. If we act as Ron Paul and Joe Nobody desire, we will find or our children will that it is as hard right here, as it once was over there.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Øbama's response was to have cheese instead of no-cheese on his burger.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siberia_Airlines_Flight_1812

Siberia Airlines Flight 1812 crashed over the Black Sea on 4 October 2001, en route from Tel Aviv, Israel to Novosibirsk, Russia. The plane, a Soviet-made Tupolev Tu-154, carried an estimated 66 passengers and 12 crew members. Most of the passengers were Israelis visiting relatives in Russia. No one on board survived. The crash site is some 190 km west-southwest of the Black Sea resort of Sochi and 140 km north of the Turkish coastal town of Fatsa and 350 km east-southeast of Feodosiya, Ukraine. Ukraine admitted that the disaster was probably caused by an errant missile fired by its armed forces.

The Russian ground control center in Sochi suddenly lost contact with the airliner. Soon afterward, the pilot of an Armenian plane crossing the sea nearby reported seeing the Russian plane explode before it crashed into the sea about 1:45 PM Moscow time (9:45 AM GMT). Most of the passengers were Israelis visiting their relatives in Russia. No one on board survived. A national day of mourning was instituted in Israel - with a minute of silence, flags at half-mast and schools teaching special lessons on the tragedy. The monument to the victims was built in Ben Shemen forest in Israel.

Occurring less than a month after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the crash was initially thought to be an act of terrorism. Nicholas Esterhazy, in an editorial in the Johns Hopkins Newsletter, speculated that, while Israeli and Russian intelligence immediately suspected a terrorist attack, Central Intelligence Agency reported that the crash was due to an errant S-200 surface to air missile fired as part of a Ukrainian Air Defense Forces exercise staged off Cape Onuk (or Chuluk) in Crimea. Esterhazy considered this hypothesis unlikely due to the missile's range and safety-features.[4] He noted that the missile, with a range of 240 km (150 mi) could not have struck the plane which was more than 320 km away from the missile launch site.

Russian officials initially dismissed the American claim as "unworthy of attention," and Russian President Vladimir Putin told the press the next day that "the weapons used in those exercises had such characteristics that make it impossible for them to reach the air corridor through which the plane was moving." Ukrainian military officials initially denied that their missile had brought down the plane; they reported that the S-200 had been launched seawards and had successfully self-destructed. Indeed, Defense Ministry spokesman Konstantin Khivrenko noted that "neither the direction nor the range (of the missiles) correspond to the practical or theoretical point at which the plane exploded."

However, Ukrainian officials later admitted that it was indeed their military that shot down the airliner.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
And you are bringing up this utterly unrelated incident because...
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Because although history seldom repeats, it often rhymes.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
You are trying to deceive us by posting RE the 2001 incident which was an accident? Do you think for any reason this was an accident?

Negligence, but not an accident. There is also the matter that the Siberian Airlines flight was well outside the range of the Ukrainian missile which supposedly downed it, while this 777 was well within the published range of the missile which was fired to shoot it down.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well outside the range as far as you know. What source of information do you have that says the S-200 can only fly x km? I can point to 3 different "credible" sources that all quote a different max range for the missile.

Wiki says 300km (some variants 400km)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S-200_Angara/Vega/Dubna

Global Security says 250km (granted they are libs, but they got the data somewhere)
http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/russia/s-200.htm

ausairpower has a very nice sytem description which is based on russian sources and has a good diagram showing ranges and altitudes vs various types of targets. the diagram has a pretty large open space after 250km which tells me that a non-manuevering large target is vulnerable well beyond the listed max range of the missile.

www.ausairpower.net/apa-s-200ve-vega.html

What it comes down to is that there are a number of different variants of the SA-5 missile, and depending on the target the range is anywhere from 250km out to 400km (or more). A large RCS target moving straight and level is gonna be vulnerable at very long ranges, since the missile doesn't have to manuever and waste energy getting to the target. So, yes, an SA-5 at that range could have shot down the SAL liner.

As for MH17, another easy target flying straight and level. The SA-11/17 could easily do the job.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
" I can point to 3 different "credible" sources "

You only pointed to two.


Wikipedia is to serious conversation as jelly beans are to an Olympic athlete's training diet.

10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Actually, if you had bothered to read the wiki article you would have noted the sources and references at the bottom, which are in fact, credible.

10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
He has a legitimate point, but note that he carefully omits the Wikipedia text about the Ukrainian government paying compensation to the 2001 victims. I very much doubt Putin will let the Russian government offer compensation as a "humanitarian" gesture.

And that's the difference. Note also that the civil judgments here will motivate Putin to try to keep power forever, as Iraqi leader Maliki and his cronies are trying to do in Iraq.

Jim Dunnigan made a real good point in a _Strategy Page_ podcast that the International Criminal Court and civil judgment prosecutions of former national leaders have told everyone that tryants and kleptocrats don't dare retire. Putin will have bill collectors after him forever.

Just as the Chinese curse is "May your children live in interesting times", the American curse is "May your life be filled with lawyers".

_Surburban Commando_:

"Deak: Do you have any idea what we are gonna do to you, if we find one itty, bitty scratch on 'em?

Shep Ramsey: Let me guess. You're gonna pound my face. Break every bone in my body. Then you're gonna drag me across a gravel road and feed my remains to a warthog. Is that about right?

Deak: What are you nuts? This is the '90s. We're gonna sue you."
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
If this is true, the families of the American victims have statutory federal tort causes of action against the Russian government with both appellate decisions in their favor, and an easy means of collecting their judgments. They can just attach the Ukrainian government's payments to the Russian government for Russian gas exports to the Ukraine. I doubt the Ukrainian government would object at all to this.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Anything coming from Kiev (same goes for Russia) is like Eric Holder investigating Lois Learner.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nope. The Ukrainians haven't lied in this mess. It's Russians claiming the Ukes are all Nazis, etc....

Of course you fell for it hook, line, and sinker.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
You are the one with a child like faith. I don't trust either party as my comment made clear.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Considering that Russia is a kleptocracy ruled by KGB thugs, that murder and terror are preferred tools of the Russian state, and that the Russians have a long history of shooting down civilian aircraft, well, forgive me for not seeing any moral equivalence here.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
No, you are the one with a pathological skepticism.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
You are going from the ridiculous to the absurd. Maybe you need a nap.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
No.

But I do need the Republican Party not to be guided by the most stupid of Ron Paul's prescriptions.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
How is not believing either party being "guided by the most stupid of Ron Paul's prescriptions"?

We know (or at least, we should know) that Putin's government is as truthful as Barack Obama, Harry Reid, or Nancy Pelosi.

What reason is there for believing the Ukrainians are any different?
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's that his every answer for anything he claims is unknowable or unpleasant, is to never intervene. Ron Paul's most stupid prescriptions are JoeNobody's answer for every question of foreign policy so far.

"What reason is there for believing the Ukrainians are any different?"

How much drastically they have less to gain and more to lose, by being caught in a lie. Especially one such as this.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Were I the Malaysian gov't I'd have a sweet little present for Putin: I'd announce no Russian commercial flights are going to enter Malaysian airspace for 10 years and that a 5 billion dollar indemnity be paid to the relatives of the 295 dead.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
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