American and Ukrainian officials said the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that exploded and crashed Thursday in a conflict-torn section of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russia separatists, was shot down with a Russian-made anti-aircraft missile and new data suggests the incident could have been an awful mistake.
A report from The New York Times said U.S. intelligence and military officials confirmed Thursday that the Malaysian Airlines aircraft with 298 people aboard, including three infants, was destroyed by a Russian SA-series missile.
A senior U.S. official told CNN that a radar system saw a surface-to-air missile system turn on and track an aircraft right before the plane went down while a second system saw a heat signature at the time the airliner was hit. The official said they are now analyzing the trajectory of the missile to determine where the attack originated.
As Ukrainian and Russian officials throw blame at each other, however, the Kyiv Post reported that Ukraine's security agency, SBU, released intercepted telephone calls between Russian military intelligence officers and members of terrorist groups suggesting that Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17 was shot down by a group of Russian-backed Cossack militants near the village of Chornukhine, Luhansk Oblast, about 80 kilometers north-west of Donetsk.
According to the Kyiv Post at 4:40 p.m. or 20 minutes after the crash Kyiv time, a call was made by Igor Bezler, described by the SBU as a Russian military intelligence officer to a leading commander of "self-proclaimed" Donetsk People's Republic about the downed aircraft which the militants were about to examine.
A second call allegedly between militants nicknamed "Major" and "Greek" after the inspection of the crash site revealed they were surprised by what they discovered at the crash site.
"It's 100 percent a passenger (civilian) aircraft," Major is recorded as saying noting there were no weapons. "Absolutely nothing. Civilian items, medicinal stuff, towels, toilet paper."
The full transcript of the conversations translated by the Kyiv Post follows below:
Igor Bezler: We have just shot down a plane. Group Minera. It fell down beyond Yenakievo (Donetsk Oblast).
Vasili Geranin: Pilots. Where are the pilots?
IB: Gone to search for and photograph the plane. Its smoking.
VG: How many minutes ago?
IB: About 30 minutes ago.
SBU comment: After examining the site of the plane the terrorists come to the conclusion that they have shot down a civilian plane. The next part of the conversation took place about 40 minutes later.
"Major": These are Chernukhin folks who shot down the plane. From the Chernukhin check point. Those cossacks who are based in Chernukhino.
"Greek": Yes, Major.
"Major": The plane fell apart in the air. In the area of Petropavlovskaya mine. The first "200" (code word for dead person). We have found the first "200". A Civilian.
"Greek": Well, what do you have there?
"Major": In short, it was 100 percent a passenger (civilian) aircraft.
"Greek": Are many people there?
"Major": Holy sh*t! The debris fell right into the yards (of homes).
"Greek": What kind of aircraft?
"Major": I haven't ascertained this. I haven't been to the main sight. I am only surveying the scene where the first bodies fell. There are the remains of internal brackets, seats and bodies.
"Greek": Is there anything left of the weapon?
"Major": Absolutely nothing. Civilian items, medicinal stuff, towels, toilet paper.
"Greek": Are there documents?
"Major": Yes, of one Indonesian student. From a university in Thompson.
Militant: Regarding the plane shot down in the area of Snizhne-Torez. It's a civilian one. Fell down near Grabove. There are lots of corpses of women and children. The Cossacks are out there looking at all this.
They say on TV it's AN-26 transport plane, but they say it's written Malaysia Airlines on the plane. What was it doing on Ukraine's territory?
Nikolay Kozitsin: That means they were carrying spies. They shouldn't be f**king flying. There is a war going on.