There are still too many unanswered questions about the downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17 over eastern Ukraine on Jul. 17, 2014. Among them, one of the most important deals with the possible error made by the operator inside the SA-11 “Gadfly” (“Buk”) TELAR (transporter erector launcher and radar) who did fire one or more missiles against a civilian plane.

Indeed, the operators inside the Buk could “read” the Boeing 777′s altitude and transponder and could easily identify the civilian plane enroute from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur flying at FL300 inside the eastern Ukraine’s airspace.

Why did they mistake a large civilian plane for a smaller Ukrainian Air Force surveillance plane?

Just a matter of poor training?

Iranian defense expert Babak Taghvaee believes the mistake was caused by the fact the Malaysian Boeing 777 was escorted over eastern Ukraine. Taghvaee is always very well informed and an extremely reliable source. Therefore, after he provided some details about this activity of the Ukrainian Air Force on ACIG forum thread about the war in Ukraine, we contacted him for some more insight.

Here’s what he wrote to us.

“When the Crimea crisis began, the Ukrainian Air Force air command center quickly forward deployed six Su-27s to the Kulbakino AB. Since beginning of the crisis and the Russia intervention, the 831st TAB has the important task to provide air defense as well as security of whole country. Six fully armed Flankers have always been in the sky especially when the other Ukrainian Air Force airplanes such as transporters and attackers like Fulcrums and Rooks were in the East of Ukraine,” explains Taghvaee. “But when the Su-25M1 was shot down by the Russia Air Force 6969th AB’s MiG-29 on Jul. 16, the situation and condition became more critical than previous days and more Su-27 sorties were conducted to confront Russian MiG-29s. I believe those two Su-27s were not in sky just for standard practice in that day [Jul. 17], I believe they were involved in HAVCAP (High  Asset Value Combat Air Patrol) mission sortie in that day.”

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EUROPE AGREES TO DISAGREE OVER NEW RUSSIAN SANCTIONS

As usual, Europe is talking out of both sides of its mouth (or other orifices). On the one hand, we are told:

  • EU foreign ministers failed to agree new sanctions against Russia at a Brussels meeting

And on the other hand:

  • Dutch minister says EU imposing new sanctions on officials over Russia

So – which is it Europe?

The FT reports from 1052ET…

EU foreign ministers failed to agree new sanctions against Russia at a Brussels meeting on Tuesdayand instead tasked their diplomats to explore possible wider-ranging measures this week.

Although such measures could include cutting off access to Europe’s capital markets and an arms embargo, they would be contingent on whether Russia fails to cooperate in the future, not on past behaviour – like ties to the downing of MH17, reports the FT’s Peter Spiegel in Brussels.

And The AP reports at 1054ET…

Dutch minister says EU is imposing new sanctions on officials over Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

The Germans remain the most anxious of the repurcussions…

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that while Berlin was still willing to talk with Russia, greater economic pressure was needed to make Moscow change course.

“I say we remain open to defusing the situation with all political and diplomatic means but it will be necessary to accompany this willingness with higher pressure, which also means sharper measures,” he told reporters on arrival.

And Britain the most aggressive…

Britain’s new Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said he would urge fellow ministers to “send a very clear and strong signal to Russia today”.

Along with Lithuania…

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said it was “time to name names” and to put Ukraine’s breakaway republics of Luhansk and Donetsk on the EU’s list of terrorist organizations.