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Russia Claims New Radar Data Shows Rebels Didn't Down MH17

By RFE/RL September 26, 2016

The Russian Defense Ministry has released new radar data it says shows the missile that downed a Malaysian Airlines flight over Ukraine in 2014 was not fired from territory controlled by Russia-backed separatists.

The ministry made the announcement at a Moscow news conference on September 26, just two days before a Dutch investigative team is scheduled to release its findings into the crash of MH17.

All 298 people on board died in the July 17, 2014, incident, which occurred amid fierce fighting in the eastern Ukrainian region known as the Donbas.

Russia has consistently rejected allegations that rebels fired the missile, and officials said the new data would be turned over to Dutch investigators.

The international investigation is collecting evidence for criminal charges against those responsible.

"The fact that Ukraine has not yet released information from the radar station suggests that the location from which the missile was launched -- if it was a Buk -- was in territory controlled by the Ukrainian armed forces," Russian Army commander Andrei Koban said during a press briefing on September 26.

It was not immediately clear why Russian officials waited until now to release the information.

But a British-based group of open-source researchers known as Bellingcat said the new data contradicted information released previously by Moscow that asserted a Sukhoi Su-25 fighter jet had been in the vicinity of the airliner at the time of the crash.

Just days after the incident, Russian officials had asserted that the Su-25 was Ukrainian and had fired the missile that exploded into the Malaysian airliner.

Bellingcat, which has poked holes in Russia's announcements on the downing of MH17 in the past, said in a post on September 26 that the newly released data showed no indications of any Su-25 jet in the vicinity of the Malaysian jet.

The group also said the radar information showed that, contrary to earlier data issued by the Defense Ministry, MH17 did not make a sharp change in its flight path just before it was shot down.

The Dutch agency that is handling the international investigation concluded last year that a Russian-designed antiaircraft missile known as a Buk -- known as SA-11 by NATO -- had been fired from separatist-held territory.

But the Dutch Safety Board did not specify who might have been responsible.

However, it identified a 320-square-kilometer area where it said the launch must have taken place, and all of that territory was controlled by Russia-backed separatists at the time.

With reporting by AP and AFP

Source: http://www.rferl.org/a/russia-claims-mh17-images- not-rebels/28014798.html

Copyright (c) 2016. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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