MH17 plane crash probe reveals closer ties between Russia and Ukraine rebels

Igor

A cross near the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 plane, that was shot down over territory held by pro-Russian separatists in 2014, outside the village of Hrabove in Donetsk Region, Ukraine June 19, 2019.

Global investigators are pleading for witnesses to testify about the role Russian government officials may have played in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014, saying that intercepted telephone conversations pointed to Moscow's involvement.

"There was nearly daily telephone contact between the leadership of the Donetsk People's Republic and their contacts in the Russian Federation", the team said in a statement obtained by the Associated Press.

"They spoke with leaders in Moscow, near the border with Ukraine and in Crimea". The telephone numbers that were used are from the same series and appear to be provided by the Russian security service FSB.

Russia's foreign ministry dismissed the claims. "We've been through this already", she said.

In June, the JIT said four suspects are being prosecuted for downing flight MH17 in 2014, killing 298 passengers and crew - even though prosecutors admit that there is little chance that they will turn up in a Dutch court.

Investigators have previously said the missile was transported to Ukraine from a Russian army anti-aircraft brigade based in the Russian city of Kursk. One of them involves him promising military reinforcements from Russian Federation in 2014.

In one other name, from 2015, he speaks to defendant Kharchenko over considerations that fellow suspect Dubinskiy will be arrested for illegal crossing over into japanese Ukraine.

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In one call, a DPR member tells a local commander "men are coming with a mandate from Shoygu", a reference the JIT links to Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu.

In one of the recordings, Alexander Borodai, the former separatist leader, is heard saying: "I'm carrying out orders and protecting the interests of one and only state, the Russian Federation. That's the bottom line".

"Russian influence on the DPR went further than military support", read a statement from Dutch investigation leader Andy Kraag.

JIT said "indications of close ties between Russian government officials and "DPR" leaders raise questions about their possible involvement in the deployment of the BUK-TELAR, which brought down flight MH17 on 17 July 2014".

Investigators said they specifically wanted to know if Surkov and Shoigu "have a role in the planning and execution of military operations in the summer of 2014 in eastern Ukraine" when the flight was downed.

"For the goal of this witness appeal, the JIT has released several intercepted telephone calls ... and asks questions", the team wrote.

The suspects in the case are owing to go on trial in a safe courtroom in close proximity to Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport in March, nevertheless they are not in custody and will probably be tried in their absence.

On May 24, 2018, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), consisting of representatives from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine, released its update on the criminal investigation into the MH17 crash.

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