Intercepted Phone Conversations Point to Group of Russian Separatists as Alleged Mastermind of Downed Malaysia Airlines MH17 – Report

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | July 18, 2014 12:30 PM EST

The terrorist act that led to the downing and crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 has been attributed to a group of Russian separatists, based on a recording of intercepted communications released by Ukraine.

REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
People light candles at the Malaysian embassy to commemorate the victims of Malaysia Airlines MH17, which crashed in eastern Ukraine, in Kiev July 17, 2014. The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was brought down in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, killing all 295 people aboard and sharply raising the stakes in a conflict between Kiev and pro-Moscow rebels.

A report ran by Kyiv Post said Ukraine's security agency (SBU) had intercepted a series of phone communications between Russian military intelligence officers and members of terrorist groups.

Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 flight MH17, carrying 295 people onboard, was flying to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam when it was allegedly shot down by a group of Russian-backed Cossack militants near the village of Chornukhine, Luhansk Oblast, some 80 kilometers north-west of Donetsk.

Eurocontrol, the organisation that monitors the safety of European air travel, in a statement, said MH17 was flying in an approved airspace. "According to our information, the aircraft was flying at Flight Level 330 (approximately 10,000 metres/33,000 feet) when it disappeared from the radar. This route had been closed by the Ukrainian authorities from ground to flight level 320 but was open at the level at which the aircraft was flying."

At 4:40 pm Kyiv time, or 20 minutes after the plane crash, Igor Bezler, who according to the SBU is a Russian military intelligence officer and leading commander of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, made a phone call. He told the person on the other line, identified as Vasili Geranin, a colonel in the main intelligence department of the general headquarters of the armed forces of the Russian Federation, that they have shot down a plane.

Read: Disaster Strikes Malaysia Airlines Anew; 1 Canadian Among 295 Dead in Downed Flight MH17

A second intercepted phone conversation was allegedly between militants identified as "Major" and "Greek" who talked upon inspection of the crash site. 

A third intercepted phone conversation heard Cossack commander Nikolay Kozitsin talking to an unidentified militant. Kozitsin said the doomed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 had no business to fly in that area, unless the airliner was carrying spies.

The full transcript of the intercepted phone call below: 

Igor Bezler: We have just shot down a plane. Group Minera. It fell down beyond Yenakievo (Donetsk Oblast).

Vasili Geranin: Pilots. Where are the pilots?

IB: Gone to search for and photograph the plane. Its smoking.

VG: How many minutes ago?

IB: About 30 minutes ago.

 

After 40 minutes, the terrorists again talked and concluded that they have shot down a civilian plane, according to SBU comments.

 

"Major": These are Chernukhin folks who shot down the plane. From the Chernukhin check point. Those cossacks who are based in Chernukhino.

"Grek": Yes, Major.

"Major": The plane fell apart in the air. In the area of Petropavlovskaya mine. The first "200" (code word for dead person). We have found the first "200". A Civilian.

"Greek": Well, what do you have there?

"Major": In short, it was 100 per cent a passenger (civilian) aircraft.

"Greek": Are many people there?

"Major": Holy sh__t! The debris fell right into the yards (of homes).

"Greek": What kind of aircraft?

"Major": I haven't ascertained this. I haven't been to the main sight. I am only surveying the scene where the first bodies fell. There are the remains of internal brackets, seats and bodies.

"Greek": Is there anything left of the weapon?

"Major": Absolutely nothing. Civilian items, medicinal stuff, towels, toilet paper.

"Greek": Are there documents?

"Major": Yes, of one Indonesian student. From a university in Thompson. 

Militant: Regarding the plane shot down in the area of Snizhne-Torez. It's a civilian one. Fell down near Grabove. There are lots of corpses of women and children. The Cossacks are out there looking at all this.

They say on TV it's AN-26 transport plane, but they say it's written Malaysia Airlines on the plane. What was it doing on Ukraine's territory?

Nikolay Kozitsin: That means they were carrying spies. They shouldn't be f...cking flying. There is a war going on.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko / )
People light candles at the Malaysian embassy to commemorate the victims of Malaysia Airlines MH17, which crashed in eastern Ukraine, in Kiev July 17, 2014. The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was brought down in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, killing all 295 people aboard and sharply raising the stakes in a conflict between Kiev and pro-Moscow rebels.
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