Senior US intelligence officials said today that Russia was responsible for “creating the conditions” that led to the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, but they offered no evidence of direct Russian government involvement. The intelligence officials were cautious in their assessment, noting that while the Russians have been arming separatists in eastern Ukraine, the US had no direct evidence that the missile used to shoot down the passenger jet came from Russia.
The officials briefed reporters today under ground rules that their names not be used in discussing intelligence related to last week’s air disaster, which killed 298 people. The plane was likely shot down by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile fired by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, the intelligence officials said, citing intercepts, satellite photos, and social media postings by separatists, some of which have been authenticated by US experts. But the officials said they did not know who fired the missile or whether any Russian operatives were present at the missile launch. (See who Russia blames for the horrific crash.)