Today, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, near the Russian border. All 283 passengers and 15 crew members were killed in the crash. Several sources are reporting the Boeing 777 was likely shot down by an SA-17 missile system, also referred to as a Buk ground-to-air missile, which is a self-propelled, medium-range system. The weapons were first developed by the former Soviet Union and are designed to fight cruise missiles, smart bombs, fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft (helicopters) and unmanned aerial vehicles (drones). U.S. intelligence officials independently confirmed the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. More information is expected to be obtained as both flight recorders were recovered in the wreckage. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the accident an “act of terrorism” and denied any Ukrainian involvement. In response, pro-Russian separatist leader Alexander Borodai accused the Ukrainian government of shooting down the plane. He denied any rebel involvement, claiming they do not have weapons capable of shooting down an aircraft flying at that attitude. However, earlier this week, rebel forces claimed responsibility for shooting down two Ukrainian military planes.
MSA's Research and Intelligence Analysis (RIA) Group has been monitoring this situation closely and has identified the following implications:
At this time, there are conflicting reports as to whether the plane’s “black box” was sent to Moscow for analysis. If this is confirmed, it could lead to questions over the results of the analysis as Russia is accused of interfering in the region. Additionally, there are unconfirmed reports that Ukrainian security services intercepted a phone call between pro-Russian rebels shortly after the crash, indicating that they shot down a civilian aircraft, but this remains unconfirmed. Earlier this week, rebels shot down a Ukrainian military fighter jet and cargo plane in the same area, further adding to speculation that they may have mistakenly targeted a civilian aircraft.
Social media is also playing a major role in the investigation as several posts by pro-Russian separatists suggest the rebels thought they shot down a Ukrainian military plane instead of a Malaysian passenger airliner. The posts have since been deleted or removed. If Russian backed pro-separatist rebels are found responsible, the incident is likely to further strain Russia’s relationships with the U.S. and EU, which are already suffering due to the Ukrainian conflict.
MSA Security's Research and Intelligence Analysis Group provides real-time intelligence on events and worldwide threats as they evolve.