The Washington Times on July 18, 2014, reported that initial U.S. intelligence assessments indicate that pro-Russian separatists are responsible for shooting a commercial airliner out of the sky with a Soviet Union-era, surface-to-air missile. Excerpts below:
There is mounting speculation among Pentagon officials that whoever brought the plane down used a Russian missile system…
Anthony Cordesman, a national security analyst for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think-tank institution based in Washington, concurred with that assessment. Both the Russian-made SA-11 and SA-17 have radars that can track and kill planes flying at high altitudes, he said. The SA-11 can hit targets flying at altitudes up to 45,000 to 60,000 feet, and SA-17 can hit targets flying between 70,000 and 82,000 feet, Mr. Cordesman said.
“The SA-11 and SA-17 are systems that are broadly deployed in former Soviet Union forces. They are successors to the SA-6, and are in both Ukrainian and Russian hands,” he said. “Rebel holdings are uncertain but General Philip Breedlove, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, warned in June that the Russian government had been training pro-Russian separatists inside Russia to have an ‘anti-aircraft capability.’ “
Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said on July 18 that the Defense Department were doubtful the separatists acted alone in their war campaign. The missile system used to shoot down the Malaysian airliner is quite complex, he said.
“It strains credulity to think that it can be used by separatists without some measure of Russian support and assistance,” he said.
The Pentagon official noted that intelligence gathering is ongoing and analysts have yet to determine exactly what system was used, who had the capability to use the system and who was involved in the operation.
While the Pentagon is following up on intelligence leads, the White House is calling for an immediate cease-fire in Eastern Ukraine, allowing international investigators to access the crash site without endangering their lives.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement Thursday that it was imperative that there be “a full, credible, and unimpeded international investigation as quickly as possible.”
“We urge all concerned — Russia, the pro-Russian separatists, and Ukraine — to support an immediate cease-fire in order to ensure safe and unfettered access to the crash site for international investigators and in order to facilitate the recovery of remains.”
Adm. Kirby said the Pentagon has seen “no hint that Russian support for the separatists have ceased.”
Moscow continues to empower the separatists by providing them heavy weapons and financing their campaign, according to Adm. Kirby.
“It has been a steady concerted campaign by Russia’s military to continue to support, resource and advise the separatists,” he said.