Ukraine’s counter-intelligence chief strongly believes that Buk-M surface-to-air missile systems were transferred from Russia to Ukraine along with crew before being used to shoot down the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777.
Vitaly Naida, head of the Ukrainian state security service SBU, says there is “undeniable evidence” to support the claim.
The SBU has produced photographs which, it says, show a Buk launcher – also known as the SA-11 – on the streets in the town of Torez, just a few kilometres from the crash site, and, separately, undated pictures which it claims show a “clearly visible” contrail from a missile launch in the same area.
Naida also claims that, at 02:00 on 18 July, the day after the crash of flight MH17, two SA-11 launchers crossed the Russian border in the Luhansk region, followed by further launcher in another group of three vehicles two hours later.
None of the sighting claims could be independently verified. But the SBU believes an order was issued to withdraw the launchers from Ukraine in a bid to “hide evidence of direct involvement”.
Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatseniuk claims that Russian-backed individuals have been trying to destroy evidence of an “international crime”.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, in a discussion with US secretary of state John Kerry, agreed that there was a need for an ICAO-led independent investigation and that all evidence – including the flight recorders – should be handed to this international effort.