MOSCOW — Russia's largest defense company, Almaz-Antey, presented evidence that Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down last year by an out-of-production rocket fired by a Ukrainian Buk-M1 air defense system.
Almaz-Antey hopes to leverage their case in a lawsuit filed in the General Court of the European Union to lift sanctions placed on the company after the Boeing 777 was shot down over eastern Ukraine last year.
"If MH17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile, it could only have been done by a 9M38-M1 missile fired from a Buk-M1 launcher," Almaz-Antey CEO Yan Novikov told reporters at a press conference last week.
This version of the Buk missile has been out of production since 1999, three years before Almaz-Antey's creation, and therefore sanctions against the firm are baseless, Novikov argued.
Establishing the Missile Type
In an elaborately technical PowerPoint presentation, Mikhail Malyshevsky, described as an adviser to Almaz-Antey's chief designer, laid out a series of purportedly new evidence pointing to the nature of MH17's demise.
The presentation shared the conclusions of what Almaz-Antey claims was an in-depth technical survey of MH17's wreckage based on photos provided by the Dutch-led international commission investigating the crash.
To begin, Malyshevsky first established two conclusions: "If a surface-to-air missile destroyed MH17, it had to be a Buk," specifically an older 9M38-M1 type rocket armed with a 9N314M1 warhead.
Neither the older 9M38 or newer 9M317 releases shrapnel that cause the kinds of damage patterns seen on the wreckage of the MH17, Malyshevsky said.
The Defense Ministry declassified information on the Buk missile specifically for the presentation, Malyshevsky said.
Later, Novikov explained that when production of the 9M38-M1 ceased in 1999, Russia hawked its stockpiles of the weapon on the foreign market. Ukraine was a large buyer of the weapons, Novikov said.
Ukraine even asked Almaz-Antey for an extended service warranty on the old missiles in 2005, but the company refused, according to Novikov.
In the days following the presentation, images of the 9M38-M1 allegedly still in service with the Russian military began to circulate on the Internet — including Buk launchers at a Victory Day Parade as recently as 2008 armed with what appear to be the 9M38-M1
Reuters last year published a photo of a Russian transport truck near the Ukrainian border carrying Buk missiles, which appear to be labeled as 9M38-M1 missiles.
The clear implication of Almaz-Antey's focus on the type of missile used to down MH17 was that Ukraine must have done it. This was further implied in the second half of the evidence presentation.
By analyzing the apparent vectors of the Buk missile's shrapnel, Almaz-Antey was not only able to identify the epicenter of the warhead's detonation relative to the plane, but the trajectory of those shards, Malyshevsky said.
This allowed the company to rule out a head-on impact from the missile, as alleged by prominent theories in the West who claimed the missile was fired from the separatist town of Snizhne on the Russian border — directly in the plane's path.
Instead, since the shrapnel traveled down the length of the plane, it had to come from the side — in the direction of Zaroschenskoe township.
This is the location from which Russia's Defense Ministry claimed two Ukrainian Buk-M1 launchers shot the MH17 when they presented satellite photos at a press conference last July 21.
Novikov dodged questions from reporters asking him to specify who was in control of that site on July 17. But Ukraine's General Staff later issued a statement saying Ukrainian forces were not in control of Zaroschenskoe at that time.
The presentation followed Almaz-Antey's earlier announcement that it had made an appeal to the Secretariat of the EU and filed a lawsuit with the General Court of the European Union to lift sanctions placed on the firm last summer.
The EU said Almaz-Antey was included on an asset freeze and sanctions list as punishment for contributing to the conflict in Ukraine. The company said this is baseless, and that the EU has linked the company to MH17.
The company earlier had announced it would be represented by German law firm Taylor Wessing.
Matthew Bodner covered Russian affairs for Defense News.