U.S. Officials: Russia ‘Created the Conditions’ for Malaysia Airlines Crash

New intelligence finds no direct link between the air disaster and the Russian government, but it likely won’t quell concerns about some association.

A pro-Russia rebel looks at wreckage from Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 lying in a field on July 22, 2014 in Grabovo, Ukraine.
National Journal
Marina Koren
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Marina Koren
July 22, 2014, 1:25 p.m.

On Monday, Pres­id­ent Obama wondered aloud what pro-Rus­si­an sep­ar­at­ists were “try­ing to hide” fol­low­ing the down­ing of a ci­vil­ian jet­liner in east­ern Ukraine. On Tues­day, U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials said it was their re­spons­ib­il­ity for the crash, which killed all 298 people on board.

The new in­tel con­cluded that sep­ar­at­ists likely struck the plane down mis­take. U.S. of­fi­cials said they found no evid­ence of dir­ect Rus­si­an gov­ern­ment in­volve­ment in the shoot­ing down of Malay­sia Air­lines Flight 17.

The As­so­ci­ated Press re­ports:

They say the pas­sen­ger jet was likely felled by an SA-11 sur­face-to-air mis­sile fired by Rus­si­an-backed sep­ar­at­ists in east­ern Ukraine and that Rus­sia “cre­ated the con­di­tions” for the down­ing by arm­ing the sep­ar­at­ists.

The of­fi­cials likely mean that Rus­sia “cre­ated the con­di­tions” pre­ced­ing the plane crash by fo­ment­ing civil un­rest in east­ern Ukraine, a re­gion that has been locked in tur­moil since Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin an­nexed the Crimean pen­in­sula in March. But a primary part of Rus­sia’s sup­port in the in­sur­rec­tion has come in the form of heavy-duty weapons, which could have in­cluded mis­siles such as the one that shot down MH17.

U.S. of­fi­cials told the AP on Tues­day that they don’t know wheth­er any Rus­si­ans were present at the mis­sile launch. They also would not say wheth­er the sep­ar­at­ists who pulled the trig­ger were trained in Rus­sia.

One U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial told The Wall Street Journ­al on Tues­day that Rus­sia has con­tin­ued to sup­ply sep­ar­at­ists in east­ern Ukraine with tanks and rock­et launch­ers after last week’s crash. “We don’t think they have stopped,” the of­fi­cial said. “We think they con­tin­ue to do it.”

At least for now, these Rus­si­an-gen­er­ated “con­di­tions” aren’t go­ing away.

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