Ukraine has denied it was responsible, Russian President Vladimir Putin said “the state over whose territory it happened is responsible,” since the tragedy “would not have happened if there was peace on this land…” and Ukrainian Security Services released audio of what it said was intercepted conversations between pro-Russian militants that implicated them in the crash. The rebels have reportedly denied responsibility as well, their leader claiming they don't have the weapons necessary to take down the aircraft.
Last month, Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, said that the Russian government had been training pro-Russian separatists inside Russia to have an “anti-aircraft capability.” That training, Breedlove said, then appeared to flow into Ukraine.
“What we see in training on the east side of the border is big equipment, tanks, APCs [Armored Personnel Carriers], anti-aircraft capability, and now we see those capabilities being used on the west side of the border,” Breedlove told reporters. Breedlove said he had not seen training in the smaller MANPAD systems, but, “we have seen vehicle-borne capability being trained.”
However, it’s unclear where the separatists may have actually acquired the missile launchers. A Russian news outlet reported earlier this month a group of rebels had seized one surface-to-air platform in Ukraine, but NYU professor and Russian-specialist Mark Galeotti wrote that report was “almost certainly preemptive disinformation.” Galeotti suspects the plane was brought down by a SA-11 “supplied by the Russians.” The U.S. State Department has said before Russia is supplying separatists with heavy weapons.
Steve Ganyard, former Marine Corps fighter pilot and ABC News consultant, said that if the Russian missile systems were used by the rebels, the systems’ complexity could have played a role in the tragedy.
“One idea, and it’s just an idea, that if this was caused a by shoot-down by the separatists themselves, they were probably given only very notional training on this very sophisticated surface-to-air missile systems. So they may not have been able to use the systems that would’ve identified this Malaysian aircraft as a civilian jetliner,” he said. “They may have just seen a target, locked on to it and said, ‘Ready, set, go, we’re going to fire.’”
A senior U.S. official agreed that U.S. analysts fear relatively untrained separatists might have fired wildly, but emphasized that at this point, it’s all still just a theory.