Ukraine today released what it called proof that one of their missiles was not to blame for bringing down a Russian airliner over the Black Sea.
Information that we have is evidence that Ukraine’s Defence Ministry is not involved in the tragedy,’’ General Volodymyr Tkachov, Ukraine’s air Defence chief, told a news conference in the capital Kiev.
US intelligence officials believe the plane was hit by a Ukrainian S-200, or SA-5, missile a large surface-to-air missile built to shoot down heavy bombers flying at high altitudes during exercises on the Crimean Peninsula, which juts into the Black Sea.
They monitored the incident from spy satellites.
Tkachov said an S-200 missile that missed its target and fell some 46-47 miles from its launch site was already in the water at the moment of the crash.
An S-300 missile destroyed its target about four miles away from its launch point, Tkachov said. The launch time of 21 other missiles used in the exercise did not coincide with the time of the crash last Thursday
Tkachov released video recordings of the two missiles’ trajectories and traced their flight paths on a map.
Russia which initially dismissed the US contention that a Ukrainian missile mistakenly hit the plane now appears willing to reconsider.
High-ranking Russian and Ukrainian defence officials headed to the Black Sea port of Sochi to investigate.
The Sibir Airlines Tupolev 154, en route from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk, exploded and crashed into the sea 114 miles off the Russian coastal city of Adler, near Sochi. Most victims were Russian-born Israeli immigrants.
Salvage workers have recovered 15 bodies.
Deputy Russian Transport Minister Alexander Neradko said that before the plane plunged into the sea, the crew managed to make radio contact with the airport in Adler on the Russian Black Sea coast.
One of the crew members let out a scream that lasted half-a-second, Neradko said, indicating it may have been into response to the explosion.