Investigators probing the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014 say they have recorded phone calls connecting pro-Russian rebels implicated in the missile strike and a senior aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The international Joint Investigation Team, based in the Netherlands, on Nov. 14, 2019, released the calls involving members of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the armed Russian separatist group that has fought against the Ukrainian government for independence in eastern Ukraine.
“Well, your plans are far-reaching. Mine are not,” Alexander Borodai, the former self-proclaimed prime minister of the DPR, said in one call. “I’m carrying out orders and protecting the interests of one and only state, the Russian Federation. That’s the bottom line.”
Members of the DPR have been found responsible for the downing of MH17. All 298 people on board were killed when the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. In June, four people were charged with murder.
(Photo by Alan Wilson)
“The indications for close ties between leaders of the DPR and Russian government officials raise questions about their possible involvement in the deployment of the BUK TELAR, which brought down flight MH17,” the investigators said, adding that the missile system that downed the aircraft originated from “a unit of the Russian armed forces from Kursk in the Russian Federation.”
The investigators said the phone calls indicated that senior members of the DPR “maintained contact with Russian government officials” — including the senior aide, Vladislav Surkov — “about Russian military support.”
According to the call logs published by the investigators, in a conversation six days before the missile strike, Borodai told Surkov he urgently needed military support from Russia, and Surkov replied that Russian “combat-ready” reinforcements would be arriving.
Other intercepted phone calls also implicate the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, and the FSB, Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, the investigators said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“It’s a week we’ve directly … [inaudible] to Moscow and we get the orders,” one rebel said during a call in July 2014.
“We get the orders from Moscow as well. It’s the same with us,” another person replied.
“But it’s FSB in your case? Right,” the first rebel asked.
“Yes,” the second person said.
“And it’s GRU in our case. That’s the only difference,” the first rebel said.
“I know about it perfectly well,” the second person replied.
Though former DPR rebels testified in the investigation that they received military help from Russia, both the rebel group and Russia have denied any involvement in the missile strike. A Kremlin spokesman said the call logs should be scrutinized, adding that they came amid a trove of “fake news” about the incident, according to Reuters.
The investigators said the FSB provided telephones that could not be wiretapped.
“How are you about those special communication telephones, you know, that we have? Those that go through the internet, do you know? Secure,” Sergey Dubinsky, a former GRU officer and a member of the DPR, said on a call on July 3, 2014.
He added: “Those are special phones, you cannot buy them. They are gotten through Moscow. Through FSB.”
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