MOSCOW, July 25 (RIA Novosti) – A system mix up during a Ukrainian air defense units’ rocket launch exercise could be the cause of the Malaysia Airlines crash in southeast Ukraine, a source from one of the Ukrainian defense departments told RIA Novosti.
“On July 17 the commanding officer of 156th Anti-Aircraft Regiment was instructed to conduct a training exercise of ground troops stationed near Donetsk, which involved deploying the troops, and carrying out a routine tracking and destroying of targets with the Buk-M1 missile,” the source said.
The source added that the actual launch of the rockets was not intended.
Two Sukhoi Su-25 combat aircraft on a reconnaissance mission participated in the exercise. It is likely at some point, the routes of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 and a Su-25 jet overlapped. Despite flying at different levels, they became a single dot on the radar of the missile system. Of the two, the system automatically chose a larger target.
The reasons for the actual missile launch taking place remain unknown and are still under investigation, as practical exercises with the Buk missiles has been prohibited since 2001, when a Russian Tu-154 passenger airplane en route from Novosibirsk to Tel Aviv was shot down by the Ukrainian military.
At the moment, an international team of 24 experts is investigating the plane crash. The B777-200 aircraft had a clean maintenance record and was last checked on July 11 at Malaysia Airlines’ hangar at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed on July 17 near the city of Donetsk in Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board. Kiev placed the blame on the independence supporters in eastern Ukraine for shooting the plane down, but the latter insisted they did not have the means to shoot down an aircraft flying at 32,000 feet.