Russian missile maker says BUK rocket downed MH17


MOSCOW: The Russian firm making missiles similar to the one the West claims downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in Ukraine said on Tuesday the passenger jet was likely hit by a BUK missile system.

All 298 passengers and crew on board the Malaysia Airlines jetliner — the majority of them Dutch — died when it was shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine last year.

Officials from state-controlled missile producer Almaz-Antey said they could not pinpoint which side shot down the plane, but intimated that the Ukrainian army was responsible as they unveiled their own report into the incident based on publicly available photographs of the wreckage.PHOTO: AFP

“The first stage of our analysis showed that the type of missile system used was a BUK-M1,” company official Mikhail Malyshevsky said at a press conference, Russian news agencies reported.

Company officials said that the BUK-M1 missile had not been produced in Russia since 1999 and was in the arsenal of the Ukrainian armed forces.

Read:Malaysia Airlines denies nearly colliding with another plane over Pakistan

Almaz-Antey alleged that the missile was probably fired from close to the village of Zaroshchenske to the south of the jet’s flight path.

“We cannot comment on who was stationed there” at the time, company director Yan Novikov said.

Ukraine and the West have accused pro-Moscow rebels of shooting down the plane with a BUK missile supplied by Russia.

Russia’s defence ministry has denied any involvement and pointed blame at either a Ukrainian missile system or another jet.

Dutch investigators have collected wreckage of the plane and are expected to release a final report into the cause of the crash by around October.

British citizen journalist group Bellingcat released a report on Sunday claiming to show the Russian defence ministry had doctored satellite images to bolster its claims.

The post Russian missile maker says BUK rocket downed MH17 appeared first on The Express Tribune.

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Why Russia suddenly wants to supply cheap gas to Ukraine


Russia Gas Pipeline

The Russian government is requesting that its state-owned gas giant Gazprom provide discounted gas to the struggling government in Ukraine.

The deal seems weird because Russia is also supporting an armed insurgency inside Ukraine, made up of pro-Moscow rebels. The conflict has decimated the Ukrainian economy. So why is Russia suddenly offering to help the country it has spent the past few months undermining?

Last week the European Commission sent a letter to the Russian government asking it to consider granting Kiev a discount on its gas from Russia, such as abolishing the export duty, which now costs $100 per thousand cubic metres of gas.

The Russian response — requesting Gazprom lower its prices for Ukraine — hints that Russia is seeking to cool tensions in the region to wriggle out of international sanctions as it attempts to pull itself out a deep economic downturn.

Russia’s GDP is forecast by the International Monetary Fund to fall by 3% this year and by a further 1% in 2016 sanctions and a collapse in oil prices have dented the country’s prospects.

Gas deals between the two countries have long been a major source of friction. Ukraine imported 58% of the gas needed for its domestic market from Russia in 2013, while Moscow has repeatedly used its gas bounty to exact major political concessions from Kiev.

Ukraine gas

A gas deal brokered between former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin to get gas flowing again after a 2009 standoff resulted in her being sentenced to seven years in prison and a fine of $200 million (the Ukraine criminal justice system is highly political).

Yet the following year, the new pro-Moscow administration was able to secure a 30% discount on its gas imports in exchange for extending Russia’s lease of the Black Sea port of Sevastopol (part of Crimea, which has now been annexed by Moscow).

Kiev has spent the past months trying to wean itself off Moscow’s pipeline by buying more gas from Europe. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said last month that the country would borrow $1 billion using government guarantees to shift the country to European suppliers of natural gas. Kiev’s funding problems, however, mean the process is likely to take longer than anticipated.

The European Commission and Ukraine want the Gazprom discount to last six months. The Russian company doesn’t want to offer more than three. Russia’s Kommersant newspaper reports that a deal is likely as Ukrainian demand looks set to decline rapidly unless Gazprom accepts lower prices.

It comes at a critical juncture for Kiev as it begins implementing ambitious economic reforms agreed with the IMF as part of a $40 billion bailout package. Part of this deal involves restructuring the country’s debt, which could result in significant losses for its creditors.

As Business Insider reported, Russia’s $3 billion loan to Ukraine from its sovereign wealth fund (due to be repaid in December) is one of the debts that may be renegotiated as Kiev seeks to lower its repayments by $5.2 billion in 2015. Because the loan is counted as “official debt,” any unilateral default on Ukraine’s side would breach IMF rules, meaning the IMF would not continue to provide funding.

As such Russia effectively holds a veto over its neighbours’ bailout package.

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