Ukraine Rebels Had Missile, Commander Admits
He accuses Ukraine of engineering crisis
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 24, 2014 3:03 AM CDT
Malaysian investigators examine a piece of the crashed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in the village of Petropavlivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine.   (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

(Newser) – Pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine did have a Buk missile system of the kind believed to have been used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a rebel commander admits. Alexander Khodakovsky, commander of the Vostok Battalion, tells Reuters that rebels in Luhansk had the missile system, but it's likely now back in Russia. "They probably sent it back in order to remove proof of its presence," says the commander, who accuses Ukraine of deliberately provoking the rebels to shoot down the Malaysian jet.

"Ukraine received timely evidence that the volunteers have this technology" and had placed it in a village near what would become the crash site, the commander says. "They knew that it would be deployed there, and provoked the use of this Buk by starting an airstrike on a target they didn’t need, that their planes hadn’t touched for a week." He says he's not sure where the Buk system came from, but it was probably Russia—and he'd like it if his own group of fighters could obtain one. US intelligence officials say the jet was shot down with an SA-11 surface-to-air missile, but they're not sure where it came from. The plane's data recorders are now in the hands of British investigators, who are trying to retrieve data at the request of Dutch authorities, the BBC reports.