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Russian investigators announce anonymous testimony of Ukrainian warplane taking off with air-to-air missiles and returning without them on 17 July
Russian investigators announced on Wednesday that they had new proof from a witness that a Ukrainian pilot fired a missile on the day of the Malaysia Airlines crash which killed 298 people.
The witness, who was not named, worked at an airfield in the Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk where he claimed to have seen a warplane take off on 17 July with air-to-air missiles and return without them.
An investigative committee statement said the testimony of the man “is important proof that Ukrainian military was implicated in the crash of the Boeing 777.”
The MH17 flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over territory in eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists, who have been fighting Kiev forces since April.
Ukraine and the west accuse Russia of supplying the rebels with a surface-to-air missile launcher but Russia has issued several opposing theories, one of which involves a Ukrainian military jet allegedly seen next to the Boeing.
The statement by investigators came on a day Kiev and the separatists were due to hold a new round of ceasefire talks.
They concluded the “difficult” marathon talks on later on Wednesday without agreeing the date of a new round aimed at ending the pro-Russian uprising devastating the ex-Soviet state’s industrial east.
The five-hour preliminary discussion in the Belarussian capital Minsk had been tentatively due to be followed by a second meeting on Friday at which a final accord was to be signed.
But separatist representatives stressed that they could not yet promise whether the negotiations would resume as planned.
“We had a difficult preliminary meeting,” Donetsk separatist region mediator Denis Pushilin told a pro-separatist news site. “The date and time of the next meeting is still up in the air. It is under discussion.”
Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda published an interview with the MH17 “secret witness” who said he worked at the airport on the day the Boeing 777 was downed.
The man, who was filmed by the paper with his back to the camera and even the back of his head blurred, said he saw a Sukhoi-25 jet take off armed with air-to-air rockets and return to the base without them.
“[The plane’s operator] could have launched them into the Boeing out of fear or revenge,” the witness said, identifying the pilot of the jet as Voloshin. “Maybe he mistook it for another plane.”
Komsomolskaya Pravda claimed the witness showed up at its office by himself and that his identity checked out, but did not identify him because his family was still in Ukraine.
The investigative committee said that the man – who is now officially a witness – may be enrolled in a witness protection program.
There was no evidence previously that Russian investigators had launched an official inquiry into the crash, which killed citizens from 11 countries, but no Russians.
Dutch authorities have been charged with establishing exactly what brought down the plane and are reconstructing part of the aircraft as part of their inquiry. Preliminary findings indicate only that the plane broke apart due to damage that came from outside.