On Monday, President Obama wondered aloud what pro-Russian separatists were “trying to hide” following the downing of a civilian jetliner in eastern Ukraine. On Tuesday, U.S. intelligence officials said it was their responsibility for the crash, which killed all 298 people on board.
The new intel concluded that separatists likely struck the plane down mistake. U.S. officials said they found no evidence of direct Russian government involvement in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
The Associated Press reports:
They say the passenger jet was likely felled by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile fired by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine and that Russia “created the conditions” for the downing by arming the separatists.
The officials likely mean that Russia “created the conditions” preceding the plane crash by fomenting civil unrest in eastern Ukraine, a region that has been locked in turmoil since Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed the Crimean peninsula in March. But a primary part of Russia’s support in the insurrection has come in the form of heavy-duty weapons, which could have included missiles such as the one that shot down MH17.
U.S. officials told the AP on Tuesday that they don’t know whether any Russians were present at the missile launch. They also would not say whether the separatists who pulled the trigger were trained in Russia.
One U.S. intelligence official told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that Russia has continued to supply separatists in eastern Ukraine with tanks and rocket launchers after last week’s crash. “We don’t think they have stopped,” the official said. “We think they continue to do it.”
At least for now, these Russian-generated “conditions” aren’t going away.