US outlines case against Russia on downed plane

WASHINGTON (AP) – Video of a rocket launcher, one surface-to-air missile missing, leaving the likely launch site. Imagery showing the firing. Calls claiming credit for the strike. Recordings said to reveal a cover-up at the crash site.

“A buildup of extraordinary circumstantial evidence … it’s powerful here,” said Secretary of State John Kerry, a former prosecutor, and it holds Russian-supported rebels in eastern Ukraine responsible for shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, with the Kremlin complicit in the deaths of nearly 300 passengers and crew members.

“This is the moment of truth for Russia,” said Kerry, leveling some of Washington’s harshest criticism of Moscow since the crisis in Ukraine began.

“Russia is supporting these separatists. Russia is arming these separatists. Russia is training these separatists, and Russia has not yet done the things necessary in order to try to bring them under control,” he said.

In a round of television interviews, Kerry cited a mix of U.S. and Ukrainian intelligence and social media reports that he said “obviously points a very clear finger at the separatists” for firing the missile that brought the plane down, killing nearly 300 passengers and crew.

“It’s pretty clear that this is a system that was transferred from Russia into the hands of separatists,” he said.

Video of an SA-11 launcher, with one of its missiles missing and leaving the likely launch site, has been authenticated, he said.

An Associated Press journalist saw a missile launcher in rebel-held territory close to the crash site just hours before the plane was brought down Thursday.

“There’s a buildup of extraordinary circumstantial evidence,” Kerry said. “We picked up the imagery of this launch. We know the trajectory. We know where it came from. We know the timing, and it was exactly at the time that this aircraft disappeared from the radar. We also know from voice identification that the separatists were bragging about shooting it down afterward.”

In one set of calls, said by Ukrainian security services to have been recorded shortly after the plane was hit, a prominent rebel commander, Igor Bezler, tells a Russian military intelligence officer that rebel forces shot down a plane.

Shortly before Kerry’s television appearances, the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, released a statement saying experts had authenticated the calls.

“Audio data provided to the press by the Ukrainian security service was evaluated by intelligence community analysts who confirmed these were authentic conversations between known separatist leaders, based on comparing the Ukraine-released internet audio to recordings of known separatists,” the statement said.