Kyiv, August 8, 2014. Russian mercenaries, under orders from Moscow, may have planned to shoot down Aeroflot Flight 2074 (AFL2074) as a pretext for a full-scale invasion of eastern Ukraine. This was stated by Viktor Yahun, the Deputy Head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) during the press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. AFL2074 travelled from Larnaca, Cyprus to Moscow, Russia on July 17 and transported many Russian tourists. Russian mercenaries seem to have accidently shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) with a Buk missile system, mistakenly believing that this flight was AFL2074, claimed the intelligence official.
Yahun stated that there was one other plane above eastern Ukraine at the time of MH17’s shoot down, AFL2074. Russian militants, acting on the orders of Moscow, wanted to shoot down the Aeroflot airliner in order to kill Russian citizens and blame the atrocity on the Ukrainian military. This would have served as a justification for a ground invasion of eastern Ukraine, which Moscow planned to conduct two days later, on July 19.
Yahun explained that both MH17 and AFL2074 were travelling at roughly the same speed and the same altitude. The Russian mercenaries were supposed to bring the Buk missile system to a village west of the city of Donetsk. Instead, because most of the mercenaries were not locals, they mistakenly transported the Buk missile system to the similarly named village northeast of the city. If the mercenaries had shot down AFL2074 west of Donetsk, the ruins of the plane would have landed in territory controlled by Ukrainian government forces. Instead, MH17 was shot down east of Donetsk, and therefore crashed in unambiguously mercenary-controlled territory.
Even before the MH17 tragedy, the SBU believed that a Russian ground invasion was imminent within a couple of days. Ukrainian intelligence services intercepted evidence that indicated an invasion plan in addition to “Russia’s massively publishing information on the shelling of Russian territory from Ukraine” to further justify a response from Russian forces.
Yahun said that SBU has evidence and witnesses in Donetsk support this conclusion. The Russian government has tried to cover up its role in the tragedy, and has transported the Buk missile system back to the territory of the Russian Federation, where it was likely already destroyed. Yahun admits that the proof of the SBU theory is not absolute, but that there is very significant evidence. Furthermore, Yahun said that the next step is to apprehend those responsible for this crime.