Ukraine: missile that downed MH17 plane was not ours

Foreign minister denies missile that shot down Malaysia Airlines jet over east of country came from Ukrainian military

Ukraine's foreign minister says there is no chance that the missile apparently used to shoot down a Malaysia Airlines jet over the east of the country was of Ukrainian military origin.

Pavlo Klimkin told the Guardian on Friday morning that the Ukrainian army did not have such missiles in the area, and said none had been seized by separatist fighters in recent weeks.

"We are absolutely sure and we checked yesterday that no missiles have been taken from the Ukrainian army," said Klimkin.

MH17 crashed near the village of Grabovo on Thursday killing all of its nearly 300 passengers and crew. US authorities say they have evidence it was shot down by a missile.

Separatist fighters in the region have shot down a number of Ukrainian planes and helicopters in recent days, and there is circumstantial evidence pointing to the seizure of a Buk missile system from the Ukrainian army by rebels.

A video has surfaced from several days ago in which a well-known Kremlin cheerleader, Sergei Kurginyan, said after a visit to Donetsk in recent days that the rebels had seized a Buk system. Kurginyan said in the video that specialists from Russia had travelled to the region to fix the missile system, "as a friendly gesture to a brotherly nation".

Additionally, a news item on Russian state television from late June announced that the rebels had taken control of a Ukrainian Buk system. But Klimkin was adamant that this was not the case.

"Our military forces don't use any sort of anti-air missile in the region of anti-terror operation, so there could be no even theoretical possibility of taking this kind of missile," he told the Guardian. He suggested the missile system could have been smuggled into Ukraine from Russia:

"In recent weeks we have had continuous inflow of mercenaries, money, weapons and heavy weaponry across the border, including tanks and Manpads [man-portable air-defence systems]," said Klimkin.

He claimed that given the border was several hundred miles long, and in places "controlled by the terrorists", it was possible that a missile system could have been brought across the border without detection.

Klimkin insisted that recordings released by Ukraine's SBU security services on Thursday of separatist fighters admitting they had downed a passenger liner were "absolutely genuine".

Ukraine's foreign minister said he had spoken overnight to a number of his western counterparts, including the new UK foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, who offered British assistance and support.

Klimkin said a video-conference had taken place on Thursday evening between the separatists and the Ukrainian president's representative, the former president Leonid Kuchma, which included mediation from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Russian ambassador to Ukraine.

Access to the location had been negotiated for the OSCE and Ukrainian officials, said Klimkin, who declined to give details of what kind of delegation would travel to the crash site and when, citing security issues.

The Donetsk region contains a number of different militias whose actions are not always coordinated, and an aide to the rebel commander Igor Strelkov told Associated Press on Thursday that his boss had not yet decided whether to allow investigators access to the site.

The rebels claim the plane was down by the Ukrainian government.


Shaun Walker in Kiev

The GuardianTramp

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