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Ukraine asks German agency for clarification on flight MH17 findings

Ukraine asks German agency for clarification on flight MH17 findings
Article by: Anna Mostovych

Ukraine is asking the Federal Intelligence Service of Germany (BND) to clarify its conclusions regarding the source of the missile system that brought down Malaysia Airline flight MH17 and to provide evidence for its claims that Kyiv’s data on the downing of the Boeing airliner had been falsified, reports DW, October 20.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed surprise at the conclusions of the Federal Intelligence Service of Germany that pro-Russian separatists shot down the Malaysian airliner with a missile fired from a BUK-M1 surface-to-air missile system they had seized from a Ukrainian military base.

“We have clearly stated that all our missile systems, including their personnel, were not present in the area of the tragedy,” Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Yevhen Perebyinis told DW on Monday, October 20.  “Statements that  militants had seized Ukrainian missile complexes do not conform to reality since all these systems had actually been moved in advance. We find it strange to hear conclusions that the militants had used Ukrainian missiles,” he said.

Similarly, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense in an official statement posted on its website, October 20, has categorically denied claims that terrorists had seized the BUK-M1 (NATO code: SA-11 Gadfly) anti-aircraft missile system from a Ukrainian military unit.

“Certain media citing the German magazine Der Spiegel have been disseminating information that the Malaysian passenger plane, flight MH17 , flying over the Donetsk Oblast had been downed by a BUK anti-aircraft missile system seized by pro-Russian separatists from one of the Ukrainian military units. The Command of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine officially states that information on the seizure by terrorists of the BUK-M1 anti-aircraft missile system from a military unit of the Air Force of Ukraine is not true,” the Ministry’s statement said.

The statement also noted that personnel, military equipment, and the antiaircraft missile regiment, which had been stationed in the Donetsk Oblast, had been relocated to new assigned regions by the decision of the Commander of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine as early as June 29, 2014.

“At the time when the terrorist entered the territory of the military administration, there remained only old and unusable vehicles,” the Defense Ministry stated.

The German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that  Gerhard Schindler, BND’s president, presented his findings at a closed hearing in the Bundestag on October 8 and used satellite images and photo evidence to make his case. The evidence has not been made public. According to Der Spiegel, Schindler also claimed that photos provided by Ukraine as evidence of the downing had been “falsified,” as had been Russian interpretations of the events. Schindler did not elaborate but did conclude that “pro-Russian separatists” were the perpetrators of the missile attack on the aircraft, the publication reported.

According to Perebyinis, the Ukrainian side will appeal to international partners, particularly from Germany, with the demand that they provide evidence that the data provided by Ukraine on the downing of flight MH17 had been falsified. “Appropriate inquiries will be made through the intelligence agencies since they have direct contacts with their international counterparts,” he said.

Ukraine’s position finds some backing in a report posted on the website of the Center for Eurasian Strategic Intelligence (CESI), October 22. According to the CESI report, the information presented by German Intelligence at the closed hearing differed markedly from information that was released publicly. Most notably, all information that the BUK-M1 (SA-11) system had crossed the Russian-Ukrainian border had been removed from the original document. Similarly excluded was all intercepted communications data indicating coordination among militants, system operators, and officers of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces. Additionally, intelligence data indicating that the missile system belonged to the 53rd antiaircraft missile brigade, 32406 military unit , in the Kursk Oblast in Russia was also dropped. In the final version of the document, all blame for the downing of the plane was placed on the pro-Russian separatists and not on Russian personnel, CESI concludes.

CESI also challenges German claims of the reliability of their satellite intelligence and photographic surveying. According to the CESI report, satellite intelligence data cannot specify the Russian or Ukrainian identity of the missile system but can only indicate that the system was within the territory controlled by pro-Russian militants at the time of the air strike and that it was the one that carried the fatal missile.

Finally, CESI claims that the photographic materials used by German Intelligence were of poor quality, as they had been obtained from social networks and “were not suitable for the production of expert evidence.”

As previously reported, on July 17, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down while in transit over eastern Ukraine. All 298 passengers and crew were killed.

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