MH17 investigators release phone call records linking Russian authorities to suspects

This is the strongest evidence yet of links between the Kremlin and anti-Kiev fighters in Ukraine

Charred remnants of the Malaysia Airlines plane downed in the Donetsk region
Charred remnants of the Malaysia Airlines plane downed in the Donetsk region

Phone call records released by investigators looking into the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine have provided the strongest evidence yet of links between the Kremlin and anti-Kiev fighters in the region.

The calls show a clear line of command from Moscow to leaders of separatist groups and were made in late 2014 – a time when the most intense fighting of the conflict was taking place.

In a fresh appeal for witnesses on Thursday, the multi-national Joint Investigation Team (JIT) published intercepts of these secure communications between Russian officials and figures in the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR).

In one call, then-prime minister of the DNR Alexander Borodai says he answers only to bosses in the kontora, or firm. This is a colloquial expression for the FSB, Russia’s security agency, used by its operatives.

One of Mr Borodai’s interlocutors in Moscow was Vladislav Surkov, a presidential aide and point man for the Kremlin’s undercover actions in the region. A series of intercepted conversations, made over not-quite-secure encrypted lines, shows the two men discussing appointments to ruling bodies of the supposed rebel authorities.

Another intercept reveals a July 2014 conversation between a local commander in Makiivka, to the east of Donetsk, and his senior. This exchange, which took place in the context of Ukrainian military advances, appears to indicate Russian plans to send reinforcements to the region.

“Men are coming with a mandate from Shoigu,” the commander is heard saying. Sergei Shoigu was and remains Russia’s defence minister.

A separate call links Mr Borodai to a Russian general identified only by name and patronymic “Vladimir Ivanovich”. In it, the separatist leader asks if it is possible to send helicopters to attack positions near Mariinka, to the west of Donetsk. Other intercepted calls link Vladimir Ivanovich to Andrey Serdyukov, a commander in Russia’s Southern Military District.

Ukraine has long argued that Russian weaponry, personnel and planning played a key role in the country’s five-year war.

The JIT was set up in response to the downing of MH17, which resulted in the loss of 298 lives in the skies above Donetsk region on 17 July 2014.

The Dutch-led team pinned the blame on Russia as early as 2014, providing details of the BUK anti-aircraft missile used and lines of command two years later.

Moscow has denied military involvement in eastern Ukraine and responsibility for the MH17 attack despite significant bodies of evidence to the contrary.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in