Germany's BND foreign intelligence agency says a local militia shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine in July, Der Spiegel reports. The BND is said to possess “ample evidence," though none of it has been made public.
The statement was made on October 8, when Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) president Gerhard Schindler was holding a secret meeting with members of the parliamentary control committee, the German daily reported on Sunday.
He claimed the militia fired a rocket from a BUK defense missile system which it had captured from a Ukrainian base. It then exploded next to the plane, according to the report.“Schindler provided ample evidence to back up his case, including satellite images and diverse photo evidence,” the report added.
However, no “evidence” has yet been made public, and the BND has not made any official statements on the matter.
At the same meeting, Schindler reportedly said that certain intelligence on the crash provided by the Ukrainian side was false, adding that “this can be explained in detail.” However, he did not give much credit to Russia’s evidence either.
The German Federal Prosecutor's Office told the newspaper that an investigation has been launched into unknown perpetrators under the possibility that the downing had been a war crime.
President of the German Federal Intelligence Agency (BND) Gerhard Schindler.(Reuters / Michaela Rehle)President of the German Federal Intelligence Agency (BND) Gerhard Schindler.(Reuters / Michaela Rehle)
First deputy prime minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Andrey Purgin, refuted claims made by the German intelligence agency. He told Interfax that Kiev forces could have downed the plane, mistaking it for a spy jet.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was downed over eastern Ukraine on July 17, killing all 298 passengers and crew. Nearly two-thirds of the passengers were from the Netherlands.
The ongoing international probe led by the Dutch has not yet established who the perpetrators were. A preliminary report issued in September said only that the plane crashed as a result of structural damage caused by a “large number of high-energy objects" that struck from outside.
Political analyst Aleksandar Pavic told RT that he believes Berlin is trying to influence the Dutch investigation – the results of which are to be released next year.
“Germany has now the obligation to show the evidence to the official investigation,” he said. “This is like during trial: if you release bits and pieces of evidence before while the trial is still ongoing, you are trying to influence the outcome of the trial.”
Russia has been repeatedly denied accusations, mostly from the US, which claim that Moscow was connected to the tragedy in some way or another. The Russian Foreign Ministry has called Washington’s accusations “unsubstantiated innuendos."
The US State Department has accused Russia of firing artillery across the border into Ukrainian territory after the plane crash.
“We have new evidence that the Russians intend to deliver heavier and more powerful rocket launchers to the separatist forces in Ukraine, and have evidence that Russia is firing artillery from within Russia to attack Ukrainian military positions,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters during a briefing in July. But she refused to provide any evidence when grilled by an Associated Press reporter.
Meanwhile, Moscow has posed a series of questions to the US that have been left unanswered. Russian military officials urged their US colleagues to release satellite images that prove their claims.
Members of the recovery team work at the site where the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo) in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, October 13, 2014. (Reuters / Shamil Zhumatov)Members of the recovery team work at the site where the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo) in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, October 13, 2014. (Reuters / Shamil Zhumatov)
"If our US colleagues have imagery from this satellite, they should release it for the international community to examine it in detail. This may be a coincidence, but the US satellite flew over Ukraine at exactly the same time when the Malaysian airliner crashed,” a ministry spokesman said in a July statement.
The US has accused local militia forces of shooting down the plane. However, it has provided little to no evidence in support of such claims.
Following the crash, Harf was asked at a press briefing if the US could back up its claims regarding the role of such militias in the tragedy. Harf responded that she “can’t get into the sources and methods behind it” and “can’t tell you what the information is based on.”
In late July, the US State Department released satellite images via email, claiming the pictures acted as “evidence” that Russia was firing rockets at Ukrainian troops across the border. The images were posted on Twitter by the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt. Russia’s Defense Ministry said the authenticity of the images was impossible to prove.
Meanwhile, Russia has said that its military detected a Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jet gaining height towards the MH17 Boeing on the day of the catastrophe. No explanation was given by Kiev as to why the military plane was flying so close to a passenger aircraft.