Shot-down Malaysian airliner 'is terrible blow,' British envoy tells Trib
WASHINGTON — If Russia supplied missiles to separatists to shoot down a Malaysian Airlines passenger plane carrying 298 people, “the Russians have a substantial number of questions to answer,” Britain's ambassador to the United States told the Tribune-Review.
“People who have been shooting at airplanes have been separatists armed, trained and equipped by the Russians. I hope very much that is not what this is,” Peter Westmacott said. “This is a terrible blow, if it is true. Of course, we have to establish the facts.”
Westmacott was meeting with the Trib about a number of topics when the airliner crashed.
He said the United States and European Union this week made it clear to Russian authorities that “this influx of fighters and equipment and heavy weaponry into Ukraine, in support of separatists' activity, is contrary to the constitution, the law and the rule of the elected government of Ukraine.”
“It is absolutely unacceptable,” he said. “That is why we slapped more sanctions on ... and we have warned them, including amongst several things, about this business of giving these missiles.”
If that happened, Westmacott said, “the Russians have a substantial number of questions to answer.”
Retired Army Lt. Col. Ralph Peters told Fox News it is unlikely the Russian military would have given rebels missile batteries capable of knocking a plane out of the sky.
“It wasn't the separatists, although Russia will try to blame them or blame the Ukrainians,” said Peters, a Fox News contributor. “The Russians have not given the separatists complex, high-altitude air-defense systems. If this airliner was flying at 34,000 feet or any altitude close to that, it was shot down by Russian military air-defense systems perched on the Ukrainian border.”
Eastern Ukraine separatist leader Alexander Borodai told Reuters that Ukrainian military forces shot down the plane. Kiev denied involvement.
Larry Johnson, a former CIA official with counterterrorism experience, told The Associated Press that if pro-Russia rebels fighting Ukrainian government forces have the powerful Russian-made Buk missile launcher, they could have mistaken the civilian airliner for a military transport aircraft before firing a missile.
“The Buk uses a radar acquisition system for targeting,” he said. “These aren't highly trained FAA air traffic controllers. You're tracking something on radar, you see a dot, you get confused. I don't think it was deliberate. I think it was mistaken identity.”
Johnson said the Buk is a sophisticated, difficult-to-operate system used by the Russian and Ukrainian government military.
The Boeing 777 heading to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam was downed in Ukraine about 35 miles from the Russian border.
“Given where this happened, in the midst of all this turmoil, everybody and their brother is going to have a conspiracy theory, based on their politics and how they are aligned,” said Dakota Wood, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based conservative policy group.
If the plane was at cruising altitude, Wood suspects only a state-level or state-sponsored entity would have the capability to shoot it down.
“From the perspective of the U.S. and the European capitals, they will have to look at the evidence presented to them and then make a political decision,” Wood said. “If you do have information that clearly indicates who was to blame, are you willing to share that information, knowing that it's going to carry with it an obligation to do something?”
Salena Zito is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff writer Tom Fontaine contributed.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Reversing the field: Pirates continue to raid Yankees for hidden skill
- Wardens on the prowl for unlicensed dogs in Armstrong this week
- Injuries to Penguins’ Ehrhoff, Letang force defense to pick up slack
- Ohio governor Kasich, a McKees Rocks native, considers presidential run
- Former Pa. Gov. Corbett: From pension critic to collector
- Steelers’ Tomlin, Pirates’ Hurdle share similar philosophy
- Lenape students work on Habitat house in Kittanning
- Pirates notebook: Locke the choice to be 5th starter
- Body pulled from river in Charleroi
- Mon-Yough Tuesday takes
- Five is enough for Penguins’ defensemen