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MOSCOW, December 23. /TASS/. Moscow-based popular daily Komsomolskaya Pravda (KP) says it has found new evidence of the Ukrainian military’s involvement in the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine in July, which killed all the passengers and crew aboard.
A report the daily published at its website says KP journalists have found an eyewitness who told them the airliner had been brought down by a Ukrainian Sukhoi-25 fighter jet with the aid of an air-to-air missile.
The man, whose name the KP does not reveal, said he was at the airdrome in the township of Aviatorskoye near the southeastern city of Dnepropetrovsk on the day of the accident. He described the place as a regular airport where fighter jets and helicopters were deployed at the time.
Their crews did sorties to bomb Donetsk and Lugansk, the centers of east-Ukrainian insurrection. The deployment of warplanes and combat helicopters there continued for quite a long time.
The eyewitness claimed he saw with his own eyes the fighter jet, which he supposed was involved in the MH17 incident, take off for the mission and return after it had been accomplished. He observed its landing right in the territory of the airport but he declined to specify where exactly from.
“In the second half of the day, roughly an hour before the Boeing was shot down, three fighters took off,” he said. “I don’t remember the exact hour. One of the jets was equipped with the missiles of that class (air-to-air). It was a Sukhoi-25.”
“Only one fighter returned,” the eyewitness said. “It was the one that had the missiles suspended below.”
The man said definitively he could not confuse the type of the missiles because all of them have very distinctive special features.
When a reporter asked for a clarification on whether the jet had returned with the ammunition still suspended or without it, the man said. “Without it. And the pilot looked really scared.”
The KP interlocutor said the absence of the missiles was quite puzzling.
"They are suspended to a fighter jet only on a special order," he said. "Most typically, the commanders didn't order this because such missiles can't be carried in the air for no particular reason."
He explained that these missiles had been decommissioned long before but their combat employment was urgently authorized again literally a week before the MH17 accident.
Upon returning to the Aviatorskoye base, the pilot of the Sukhoi-25 looked clearly ill at ease, quite probably two other 'sushkas' the way the Sukhoi jets are called colloquially had been shot down by the self-defence forces.
“The phrase he said after they had taken him out of the jet was: ‘This was a different plane’.”
“Later at night, an officer asked the same guy, Voloshin (Captain Vladislav Voloshin, the Sukhoi-25 pilot’s name as given to the KP by the eyewitness - TASS), well, what’s with that plane? And the answer was, the plane turned out at a wrong time and at a wrong place.”
The eyewitness said Captain Voloshin's regiment was based in the southern city of Nikolayev and they were dispatched first to the Kharkov region and then to Dnepropetrovsk, They flew on bombing raids all the time and, according to his contacts at the Nikolayev airbase, they continued doing virtually on the day he spoke to the KP.
Somewhat surprisingly, the commanders did not replace Voloshin after the puzzling mission on July 17 and he continued making the combat raid from Dnepropetrovsk, But any attempts to discuss the accident were cut short immediately.
The man said the shooting down of the Boeing might have been the pilot's human error he might have confused the type of the jet.
The eyewitness also described the type of damage to the fuselage that had been mentioned by reporters on the ground and later on by investigators as quite consonant with the principles of action of some air-to-air missiles, which acted like shotgun pellets in the course of explosion.
The Boeing 777 jet of Malaysia Airlines was performing flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17 with 298 passengers and crew aboard when it crashed for the yet unclear reasons over the much-troubled war-torn Donetsk region of Ukraine.
Ukrainian authorities, their Western political associates and media rushed to apportion all blame for the accident to self-defence forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, alleging that the ‘rebels’ had ostensibly used the BUK air defence missile system.
Spokespeople for the DPR, as well as Russian officials and military experts have categorically refuted all the allegations regarding the utilization of the BUK or a possible involvement of Russian military advisers in it.
The Dutch Safety Council published a report on provisional conclusions of the investigative commission, which said the airliner had disintegrated in midair after being hit by a multitude of objects at high velocity.
The final report on the accident is to be published within twelve months following the accident.