The shoot down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July of 2014 by Ukraine rebels is being investigated by an international team of prosecutors and detectives tasked with developing a criminal case to be presented at the International Criminal Court.
Yesterday, the Joint Investigation Team announced that they discovered that the Ukraine rebels responsible for bringing the passenger airline down had “almost daily contact” with officials in Russia, including high-ranking government officials in Moscow.
“There was almost daily telephone contact between the leadership of the Donetsk People’s Republic and their contacts in the Russian Federation,” the team said in a statement obtained by the Associated Press.
“They spoke with leaders in Moscow, near the border with Ukraine and in Crimea,” the statement added. “Communication mostly took place via secure telephones provided by the Russian security service.”
The team says the level of communication between Russia and the separatists intensified in the first half of July 2014 and that it has “information that indicates that the influence of the Russian Federation extended to administrative, financial and military matters in the DPR.”
The Russian government has denied involvement and blames the attack on the Ukrainian government. But investigators have plenty of evidence it was the rebels, fighting with Russia’s assistance, to separate eastern Ukraine from the rest of the country who are responsible.
The team last year said it was convinced that the Buk missile system used to shoot down flight MH17 came from the Russian army’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade, based in the Russian city of Kursk. They now are looking for witnesses “who can share information about those who controlled the DPR leadership in Donetsk and commanded the deployment of the missile system.
In June, the investigators announced they had charged four people, including three Russians, with murder over the July 17, 2014, downing of Flight MH17.
Investigators say, “Russian influence on the DPR went beyond military support.”
Did Russia order the rebels to shoot down a passenger plane? This isn’t likely, given the circumstances at the time. Nor is it likely that Russian anti-aircraft crews were manning the battery responsible for the attack at the time.
But it’s entirely possible that Russian officials in Moscow, Ukraine or in the Russian FSB, had advance warning of some kind of attack on a commercial airliner. In the days leading up to the attacks, a top aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin was in direct communication with the rebels. Given the financial and military support of the DPR by Russia, it wouldn’t make any sense for the rebels to risk Moscow’s displeasure by blindsiding them with this act of savagery.
The war in Ukraine has become a sideshow to the impeachment farce playing out in Washington. But nearly 300 people lost their lives because of a deliberate attack on a passenger plane and someone needs to be held accountable.