Finger-Pointing Intensifies Over Jet Shoot-Down

Friday, July 18th 2014, 10:39 am
By: News 9

Friday was a day of shock, grief and recrimination in eastern Ukraine.

Everybody -- the separatist rebels in the region, the government in Kiev they are battling, and the Russians in Moscow -- was blaming somebody else for shooting down a Malaysia Airlines jet carrying 298 civilians, and as Mark Phillips reports, as the accusations continue to fly, an investigation will have to be organized.

Friday morning, the airline released the nationalities of those aboard the flight,

· 189 Netherlands

· 44 Malaysia

· 27 Australia

· 12 Indonensia

· 9 UK

· 4 Belgium

· 4 Germany

· 3 Philippines

· 1 Canada

· 1 New Zealand

Four passengers’ nationalities remain to be verified.

Video captured by residents near the Ukraine-Russia border shows locals watching as the shattered plane falls from the sky. The heavier parts crashed to the ground, other parts -- the personal effects of those on board -- drifted down like lingering, tragic memories.

The crash site is a debris field spread over a wide area, but the still-smoking wreckage is unmistakably parts of MH17; a section of wing, the Malaysian Airlines logo still visible, a piece of fuselage, a burnt out engine, and the passengers themselves, what is left of them. Many of the images from the scene are too graphic to show; lifeless bodies and body parts scattered among twisted metal.

Emergency workers were on the scene, but it soon became clear the scene was vast, with debris spread over nine square miles, suggesting a high altitude explosion, likely -- according to U.S. intelligence officials -- caused by a surface-to-air missile. But whose?

Finger-pointing over who was to blame for the crash began as the flames were still being put out.

The pro-Russian rebels who have declared their own republic in the region had previously claimed to have shot down several Ukrainian military planes.

The self-proclaimed pro-Russian prime minister of the region blamed the downing of MH17 on the Ukrainian government: "It's not a disaster," he said. "It's is a heinous crime of the regime in Kiev."

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko blamed it on the rebels, and his government claimed proof in the form of intercepted phone conversations in which rebel commanders purportedly admit shooting a plane down on Thursday.

But the conversations couldn't be independently verified, and wasn't clear which plane was being referred to; at least two other Ukrainian military planes have been shot down in the area this week by the separatists.

Ukraine's government floated another piece of purported evidence that the rebels were behind the shoot-down on Friday, claiming that a video clip posted online showed the missile launcher used in the incident being driven on the back of a truck toward the Russian border, allegedly to try and "hide the evidence."

The video could not be independently verified, and there was nothing in the short clip to identify the location or time and date it was shot, but it did appear to show a Russian-made Buk surface-to-air missile system being transported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed the government in Kiev on Thursday, saying it bore responsibility because of its military campaign to try to take back territory held by the separatists.

On Friday morning, the Kremlin seemed to cast the blame squarely at Ukraine's own military, citing "radar" evidence suggesting activity at an air defense missile system installation held by Kiev in the east.

Reports in Russian media, citing the Defense Ministry, said radiation was detected Thursday at a known Ukrainian military Buk missile installation -- the surface-to-air missile system that Ukrainian officials have said was used in the shoot-down.

According to the Russian government, the Buk system was located in the south of the Donetsk region, within range of MH17's flight path.

"The Russian equipment detected throughout July 17 the activity of a Kupol radar, deployed as part of a Buk-M1 battery near Styla (a village about 16 miles south of Donetsk)," the ministry was quoted as saying.

There were reports in Russian media at the end of June saying separatist militants had overrun a Ukrainian military base in the Donetsk region where Buk systems were located, but those reports were never corroborated, and it remained unclear Friday morning whether the rebels have any of the advanced missiles in their arsenal.

The Russian Defense Ministry also began Friday trying to poke holes in the theory that separatist militiamen might have acquired a Buk system. The Ministry was quoted as saying a top Ukrainian official had told the nation's Security Council on Thursday night that the rebels had not stolen any of the military's own Buk systems.