Rebels deny they had weapons to shoot down MH17
Pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine said on Tuesday they did not have the capability to shoot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, after Dutch investigators said it was hit by numerous "high-energy objects".
"I can say only one thing: we simply do not have the military hardware capable of shooting down a Boeing passenger jet such as the Malaysian plane," Alexander Zakharchenko, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, told Russia's Interfax news agency.
Kiev and Washington accuse the rebels of blowing the Kuala Lumpur-bound flight out of the sky on July 17 with a sophisticated missile system sent from Russia, killing all 298 people on board.
The separatist insurgents and Moscow have consistently denied any links to the downing of the jet as it flew over rebel territory at an altitude of some 10,000 metres, instead pointing the finger at the Ukrainian military.
"It is obvious that it was an act of provocation carried out through the armed forces of Ukraine to discredit Russia and the people's militia," Miroslav Rudenko, another senior rebel commander, told Interfax on Tuesday.
Dutch experts on Tuesday released the preliminary findings into the tragedy, saying that MH17 "broke up in the air probably as the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside".
While the report from Dutch Safety Board does not apportion blame over the July air disaster, it could heighten Western pressure against Moscow over its role in the bloody Ukraine conflict.
© 2014 AFP