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Russia dismisses accusations Ukrainian separatists shot down Flight MH17

© Bulent Kilic, AFP | Pro-Russia separatists guard the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-07-21

Russia’s Defence Ministry dismissed accusations on Monday that pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine’s east were at fault for shooting down a Malaysia Airlines jet last week, alleging instead that Ukrainian warplanes had been flying close to the plane.

The ministry also denied accusations that Russia had supplied the separatists with SA-11 Buk anti-aircraft missile systems – which are known as “Gadfly” in NATO – or “any other weapons.”

“Russian air space control systems detected a Ukrainian Air Force plane, presumably an SU-25 (fighter jet), scrambling in the direction of the Malaysian Boeing,” Lieutenant-General Igor Makushev of Russia’s Air Forces told a news briefing. “The distance of the SU-25 plane from the Boeing was from 3 to 5 kilometres (2 to 3 miles).”

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, however, quickly denied the Russian Defence Ministry’s claims in an interview with CNN, insisting that all Ukrainian planes in the area were on the ground at the time of the crash.

The ministry’s comments came as the Netherlands announced that prosecutors had opened an investigation into the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which claimed the lives of all 298 people on board, 193 of whom were Dutch citizens.

The Netherlands’ public prosecutor is now in Ukraine as part of the investigation, a spokesman said.

Fighting in Donetsk

Meanwhile, heavy fighting broke out near a railway station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, which has been under the control of pro-Russia separatists since April.

Separatists claimed that the violence began after Ukrainian forces attempted to retake the city. The Ukrainian government, however, has denied deploying the regular army into central Donetsk, saying that small “self-organised” pro-Ukrainian groups were involved in the clashes.

FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg reports from scene of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash

But almost as quickly as the shelling started, it eased, leaving a control tower at the railway station with shattered windows.

Four people were reportedly killed in the fighting near the railway station and close to the airport outside Donetsk, local health officials said in the industrial city, which was home to about 1 million people before many fled unrest in the region.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-07-21

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