Yesterday, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) went public with explosive claims regarding the 17 July shootdown of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 near Donetsk. As I explained in detail, SBU head Valentyn Nalyvaychenko asserted that the Boeing 777 was shot down by a Russian-supplied “Buk” (SA-11) surface-to-air missile system, but in error: Moscow planned to down an Aeroflot plane that was nearby, in a false flag provocation to justify the Kremlin’s direct intervention in the war for eastern Ukraine, but in a tragic mistake the bumbling separatists downed the Malaysian airliner instead, killing 298 innocent people.
SBU evidence for this claim was relatively thin, compared to its past releases of sensitive intelligence about nefarious Russian activities in the country. I opined that there were several possible explanations for this, including that the SBU’s statements may not be based on any particular intelligence “smoking gun,” but rather might be derived from analysis of many sources, none of them conclusive when standing alone, but when taken together lead to an obvious analytic conclusion.
That seems to be the case, based on a follow-up briefing presented today by SBU deputy head Viktor Yahun and reported in the Kyiv daily UNIAN. Yahun restated his service’s belief that the Malaysian plane was brought down by the separatist-manned “Buk” by mistake, the intended target having been an Aeroflot jet, specifically AFL2074, that was carrying some 250 passengers. UNIAN has the rest of the story:
“It is based on local residents’ testimonies. They are ready to testify in court. There are people who are ready to testify, in particular, about the movement of the trailer with the ‘Buk’. There is the trailer owner’s testimony about the seizure of the trailer,” Yahun said.
Yahun added that all questions about the information on Russia’s plans to down the plane which was published by the SBU may be taken off the table only after all the people who had issued orders to use this surface-to-air missile complex are detained and questioned.
When asked where this surface-to-air missile system may be now, Yahun said: “There are clearly established facts that the ‘Buk’ was brought in and withdrawn from Ukraine at a certain time. I do not want to insinuate but I believe that the ‘Buk’ does not exist any longer.”
When asked if Russia had provided any response to the information the SBU made public yesterday, Yahun said: “No.”
It seems that the SBU is in possession of relevant information, including multi-eyewitness testimony, while the issue of whether Kyiv is holding prisoners or defectors from the Russian camp who can explain more of the tale remains open, based on Yahun’s coy statement. Given the SBU’s customary thoroughness in releasing intelligence to the public to back up its claims regarding Russian aggression against Ukraine, which I’ve reported many times, the absence of hard evidence here is surprising, particularly given the explosive nature of this claim. One can only assume that Kyiv is withholding certain evidence for operational and/or legal reasons. The SBU would be well advised to share as much as they feel able to while protecting sources and methods. Although Ukraine is at war and needs all the intelligence it can get, the important issue of what really happened to MH17 and why must be answered properly. Let Moscow deal in innuendo and lies, that is their niche, not Kyiv’s.