By Kyle Herda
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
KIEV, Ukraine – As an international team of investigators continues to look into the cause of the MH17 crash, it appears that the focus has shifted to gathering and protecting witnesses who can support the theory that it was a Buk missile that took down the plane last summer. The Joint Investigative Team (“JIT”) is offering protection to any witnesses who are concerned about coming out for safety reasons.
The JIT is currently “looking for witnesses who have seen Buk crew members or have more information about the identity of those involved in ordering and launching the Buk.” A Dutch report claims that the plane was downed by “high-velocity objects,” which other sources such as the JIT believe came from a Buk missile system. Intelligence appears to show such a system in the area moving prior to the plane going down, and so the investigation is currently focused on finding witnesses who can verify the involvement of this system, or perhaps help find those responsible and fill in some of the missing pieces to this story. It further appears that the Buk launcher crossed into Russia shortly after the plane was downed.
In the meantime, while the second Minsk cease-fire largely holds in Eastern Ukraine, both sides continue to commit minor violations. On Saturday, 22 Russian tanks crossed from the Russian town of Gukovo into Eastern Ukraine via Luhansk and towards Sverdlovsk. The Donetsk regional government also claims that Kiev violated the truce 13 times on Saturday. On Sunday, pro-Russian rebels fired 15 Grad missiles at Horlivka, and they claim to have received the 122mm Grad missiles from one of Russia’s “humanitarian convoys,” which are still arriving.
A survey by Ukrainian agency Interfax, which surveyed over 2,000 citizens in Donetsk and Luhansk, found 45% of residents did not have enough to eat. The United States is also stepping in to help by sending 35 paratroopers from the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy, to train six Ukrainian National Guard companies over a two-month deployment. Britain has also sent 35 military personnel, along with non-lethal equipment, to train Ukrainians in Mykolaiv during a two-month deployment.
Meanwhile, while Russia continues to deny direct involvement in the Ukrainian fight, some Russians, such as Dmitry Sapozhnikov, claim to have left Russia to go to Ukraine to fight. Not only that, but Sapozhnikov claims that “all operations, especially large-scale ones, are led by Russian officers, by Russian generals… we fulfill the orders.” US Lt Gen Ben Hodges reports that nearly 12,000 Russian troops are currently operating inside Ukraine.
For more information, please see:
RT – MH17 probe looking for witnesses to back ‘Buk missile’ scenario – 31 March 2015
BBC – How Ukraine rebels rely on Russians – 31 March 2015
The Telegraph – Separatist fighter admits Russian tanks, troops ‘decisive in eastern Ukraine battles’ – 31 March 2015
Newsweek – U.S. Sending Army Paratroopers to Train Ukraine Forces – 31 March 2015
BBC – MH17 disaster: Appeal for Buk rocket witnesses – 30 March 2015
The Wall Street Journal – Dutch-Led Probe of MH17 Crash Says Buk Missile Launch is Primary Theory – 30 March 2015
Newsweek – Russian Tanks and Fighters Enter Eastern Ukraine, Says Kiev – 30 March 2015
Bloomberg – Ukraine Says Rebel Attacks Ebb as Tanks Said to Cross Border – 29 March 2015