Malaysia plane MH17: Game-changer in Ukraine crisis?

Jonathan Marcus, BBC diplomatic correspondent
17 July 2014

For a passenger airliner to suffer a catastrophe in mid-flight is extremely unusual.

To down a modern passenger jet typically either something has to explode on board, or, as looks increasingly likely in this case, it has to be shot down, either from the air or from the ground.

The Ukrainian authorities seem in no doubt as to what has happened.

An adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister, Anton Herashchenko, alleges that the plane was flying at an altitude of some 10,000m (33,000 ft).

He says that it was hit by a missile fired by a Buk launcher.

The Buk, also known by its Nato codename of Sa-11 Gadfly, is a Russian-made, medium-range surface-to-air missile system designed to defend against high-performance aircraft and cruise missiles.


Buk surface-to-air missile system
Also known as SA-11 Gadfly (or newer SA-17 Grizzly)

Russian-made, mobile, medium range system

Weapons: Four surface-to-air missiles

Missile speed (max): Mach 3

Target altitude (max): 22,000 metres (72,000ft)

Source: Global Security

The Sa-11 is a more capable successor to the older Sa-6 system.

Typically, four missiles are carried on board a tracked vehicle which also houses the guidance and tracking radar.

A separate tracked vehicle carries the Snow Drift target acquisition radar.

Sanctions pressure

Everything will now depend upon obtaining accurate and verifiable data on the aircraft’s last moments and on what brought it down.

If it does turn out that the Boeing 777 was shot down by the separatists – with weaponry supplied by Moscow – then it could significantly alter the terms of the whole debate surrounding the Ukraine crisis.

Buk missiles are typically carried on a tracked vehicle

Over the past few days there has been growing concern among Western governments that Russia was stepping up its military support for the separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Nato spokesmen insist that more and more heavy military equipment has moved from Russian stockpiles to the separatists across the border.

In response, the United States has strengthened its economic sanctions against Moscow – it is threatening even stronger action – though the European Union has so far failed to follow Washington’s lead.

But if Russia in any way had a hand in this tragedy then the pressure – especially on the Europeans – for much tougher sanctions will only grow.

It will also prompt a renewed push for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Moscow clearly does not want the separatists to be swept aside.

But equally Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to have no clear game-plan as to what the end-state should be.



"DNR" and "LC" may be recognized as international terrorist organizations | July 19, 2014

[Personal translation from Russian –RD]

President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko reported on the preparation of claims for international recognition of Lugansk and Donetsk "people’s republics" terrorist organizations. It is reported by the TV channel "Rain." "I am confident that the court over the terrorists must necessarily happen" – said Poroshenko met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Frans Timmermans July 19, where representatives of countries discussed catastrophe "Boeing 777." In its turn Timmermans said that for him the main thing – to return home the bodies of citizens of the Netherlands to the family buried their relatives. "We are angry about the news that the body can move from place to place," – said the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. "Once we get the evidence, we will not stop until the perpetrators are not brought to justice: it is not only about those who pulled the trigger, but also about those who made ​​it possible. I believe that the international community must unite for the sake of this "- said Timmermans. He also noted that the collapse of the Malaysian "Boeing", "opened the eyes of Europe on what is happening in Ukraine." "The Netherlands will now actively promote more decisive action on the part of the EU" – summed Timmermans. Donetsk and Luhansk self-proclaimed "people’s republic" were officially recognized terrorist organizations in Ukraine May 16, 2014. This was announced by Deputy Prosecutor General Mykola Golomsha. Previously, 11 leaders of the "DNR" and "LC" were suspected of involvement in terrorist organizations.



MH17 crash: Ukraine releases alleged intercepts
BBC | 18 July 2014

Ukrainian authorities have released what they say are intercepted phone conversations between pro-Russian separatists and what appear to be Russian military officers saying that separatists shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

The Ukrainian Security Service put the Russian-language conversations on YouTube within hours of the crash.

The veracity of the recordings cannot be confirmed.

First recording

[Male voice, identified as separatist leader Igor Bezler] The group of the Miner [an alias] has just shot down a plane, which came down just behind Yenakiyevo.

[Col Geranin] Pilots. Where are the pilots?

[Bezler] Gone to search for and photograph the plane. It’s smoking.

[Second male voice, identified as Russian military intelligence Colonel Vasily Geranin] How many minutes ago?

[Bezler] About 30 minutes ago.

Second recording

[Male voice, captioned as "The Greek" ] Yes, Major.

[Major] Well, the Chernukhino lads shot down the plane.

[Greek] Who shot it down?

[Major] From the Chernukhino roadblock. The Cossacks at Chernukhino.

[Greek] Yes, Major.

[Major] Well, the plane fell apart in the air, near the Pertropavlovskaya coal mine. The first casualty 200 [military jargon for dead body] has been found. A civilian.

[Greek] Well, what do you have there?

[Major] Basically it was 100% a civilian aircraft.

[Greek] Are many people there?

[Major] [Curses] The debris fell right into backyard.

[Greek] What kind of aircraft?

[Major] I have not figured this out yet because I haven’t been close to the main body of the debris. I am only looking where the first bodies began to fall. There are the remnants of inner brackets, chairs and bodies there.

[Greek] I see. Any weaponry there?

[Major] Nothing at all. Civilian things, medical bits and bobs, towels, toilet paper.

[Greek] Any documents?

[Major] Yes. From an Indonesian student. From Thompson University [curses].

Third recording

[Male voice, identified as a fighter] Regarding the plane shot down in the area of Snezhnoye-Torez. It’s a civilian one. Fell down near Grabovo. There are lots of corpses of women and children. The Cossacks are out there looking at all this.

They say on TV it’s a Ukrainian AN-26 transport plane, but they say it’s got Malaysia Airlines written on the plane. What was it doing in Ukrainian territory?

[Male voice, identified as Cossack commander Nikolai Kozitsyn] That means they were carrying spies. They shouldn’t be [curses] flying. There is a war going on.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world.


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