Germany's foreign intelligence service BND believes that the anti-aircraft missile system that shot down a Malaysian Airlines MH17 flight over East Ukraine in July, with the loss of all 298 on board, had been seized by Russian-backed rebels from Ukrainian forces, according to a report in Germany's Spiegel.
"The BND has intelligence indicating that pro-Russian separatists captured a BUK air defence missile system at a Ukrainian military base and fired a missile on July 17 that exploded in direct proximity to the Malaysian aircraft," reads the Spiegel report, referring to a presentation by BND president Gerhard Schindler on October 8 to members of Germany's parliamentary control committee, responsible for monitoring the work of German intelligence.
The BND thus contradicts both Ukrainian claims that Russia supplied the anti-aircraft system, as well as Russian claims that it was Ukrainian forces that had shot down the plane. BND said that evidence produced by both sides to support their claims had been clearly falsified.
Schindler said that the Russian-backed rebels were responsible for firing the missile, according to Spiegel, and that this could constitute a war crime.
Ukraine has fiercely denied that rebels had managed to seize any Ukrainian BUK (Gadfly) anti-aircraft missile launchers, arguing that surface-air rocket system had been supplied by Russia.
The Spiegel report did not detail where and when the missile system had been seized. Russian-backed rebels in East Ukraine claimed in June that they had seized a BUK system when they overran a Ukrainian military based.
Nor did it detail which of the rebels groups had fired the missile. Intercepted radio communications released to media by Ukraine's security service immediately following the incident pointed to a rebel commander nicknamed 'Bes' as having been in command of the unit, which apparently comprised Don Cossacks, potentially Russian citizens.
Ukraine's security service has also acknowledged that one line of investigation being followed is that former Ukrainian servicemen from an anti-aircraft unit based in the Crimea, having joined the rebels following Russia's annexation of Crimea, had operated the rebels' BUK system.
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