Ukraine Says Audio Shows Pro-Russia Rebels Were Behind the Crash

4 MINS READJul 17, 2014 | 20:40 GMT
Ukraine Says Audio Shows Pro-Russian Rebels Behind Crash
A person stands in the wreckage of the Malyasian Airlines plane downed in eastern Ukraine on July 17.

Editor's note: The full transcript referenced in this analysis is posted below. The translation from Ukrainian to English was made by Stratfor and is unofficial.

According to an unconfirmed audio intercept by the Security Service of Ukraine, a pro-Russia rebel group based in Chernukhino, Luhansk province, is responsible for the July 17 Malaysia Airlines plane crash. The village of Chornukhino is some 19 kilometers (about 12 miles) from the crash site, within the rebel-controlled territories of eastern Ukraine. 

The audio recording is allegedly of a phone call initiated by Igor Bezler, described by the Ukrainian report as a Russian military intelligence officer and leading commander of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic. At 4:40 p.m. local time, 20 minutes after the plane crashed, he is recorded talking with someone the Security Service of Ukraine identifies as Vasili Geranin, a colonel in the main intelligence department of Russia's armed forces. During this conversation, Bezler allegedly says to Geranin, "We have just shot down a plane. Group Minera. It fell down beyond Yenakievo."

Malaysian Flight MH17 Flight Path

According to a comment by the Security Service of Ukraine, there is then a break of 40 minutes and a second intercepted conversation between militants codenamed "Major" and "Greek" — any relations to Bezler and Gernanin are unclear — once the crash site had been inspected. Major reportedly said, "These are Chernukhino folks who shot down the plane. From the Chernukhino check point. Those Cossacks who are based in Chernukhino." He then goes on to say that "it was 100 percent a passenger (civilian) aircraft" with all passengers on board being civilians.

So far, the Ukrainian and pro-Russian rebel sides have accused each other of shooting down the aircraft, while some allegations have been made against Russia as well. The Ukrainians claimed that the rebels have Buk surface-to-air missiles, which would have enough range to strike the Malaysian aircraft, which was at a cruising altitude of about 10,000 meters (30,000 feet). There have also been reported but unconfirmed sightings of Buk missile systems in separatist hands. U.S. intelligence has confirmed that it was a surface-to-air missile that was fired at the Malaysian plane, but the origin is still unclear. However, the rebels have denied this claim and have said they do not possess weapons of that range. If this audio turns out to be authentic, which at the moment is still unclear, international pressure on Russia to stop its support of rebels in eastern Ukraine is likely to increase significantly.


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

Vasili Geranin: Pilots. Where are the pilots?

IB: Gone to search for and photograph the plane. It's smoking.

VG: How many minutes ago?

IB: About 30 minutes ago.

Security Service of Ukraine comment: After examining the site of the plane the terrorists come to the conclusion that they have shot down a civilian plane. The next part of the conversation took place about 40 minutes later.

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

"Greek": 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 percent 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 site. 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.

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