Extraordinary new intel on MH17 disaster
Intercepted telephone calls has revealed a direct link between rebels involved in the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines MH17 five years ago and top Russian government officials, in evidence of a new level of involvement of that country beyond just a military ties.
That involvement includes top Moscow officials and key members of the FSB Russian secret service and the GRU intelligence service as well as Russian officials who were installed in the annexing of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014.
It also implicates Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu with active involvement of hostilities in Ukraine in the 2014 summer including planning the annexing of the whole region.
MH17 was shot down over east Ukraine on July 17, 2014 by a BUK surface-to-air missile killing all 298 people of board including 38 Australian citizens and another two who called Australia home.
Dutch and Australian police investigators yesterday made an extraordinary appeal for their investigation as they released a trove of new material including telephone recordings showing daily Moscow financing, administration and direction of hostilities in East Ukraine.
"The indications for close ties between leaders of the DPR (rebels) and Russian government officials raise questions about their possible involvement in the deployment of the BUK TELAR, which brought down flight MH17," AFP investigators said.
Last year investigators revealed the BUK came from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade, a unit of the Russian Armed forces from Kursk in the Russian Federation and fired one deadly shot before fleeing back across the border. Four separatist leaders were named as suspects but this is the first time Russians have been named as potentially directly involved in the MH17 tragedy.
In the recordings, militia rebels in Ukraine co-ordinate plans with Russian government officials and reveal when Eastern Ukraine is secured by them, Mr Shoygu will take command of forces in the region.
For years Russian has denied any involvement in the civil war in Ukraine despite overwhelming evidence not least of all the columns of tanks and troops with patched over markings pouring across the border into the restive region.
In one wiretap, Vladislav Surkov, a high ranking government official of the Russian Federation, pledges reinforcements for the conflict in the days leading up to the downing of MH17. The audio recordings are only snapshot introductions to conversations before "scramblers" are switched on.
In another, General Serdyukov, a commander of the Southern Military District of the Russian Federation, talks about delivery of equipment and Shoygu's role.
Self-proclaimed 'prime minister' of the Donetsk region of east Ukraine Alexander Borodai has consistently claimed to be responsible for the annexing of the region for his rebels.
But in a new recording he states: "Well, your plans are far-reaching. Mine are not. I'm carrying out orders and protecting the interests of one and only state, the Russian Federation. That's the bottom line."
The Australian Federal Police and Dutch-led Joint Investigations Team into the MH17 disaster appealed for information about the level of involvement of the Defence Minister and another dozen officials.
AFP Assistant Commissioner Peter Crozier said that while the last five years had challenged the organisation and the AFP members involved in the investigation, the focus had not diverted from bringing those responsible to account wherever possible.
"We cannot lessen the pain of the loss of those family and friends in this terrible tragedy, so our resolve remains to continue work to ensuring a measure of justice can be felt by all of those affected, especially those families and friends suffering their enormous loss," he said.