Russia has released what it claims is new evidence that Ukrainian warplanes and a US satellite led to the crash of MH17, as it faces mounting global fury over the tragedy.
Four days after the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 crashed in eastern Ukraine, the international community and the families of the 298 people on board who died are no closer to learning what happened.
Ukraine and the West have presented clear evidence indicating that pro-Russian separatists shot down the passenger jet with a Russian-supplied Buk missile system.
But in a new statement from the Russian military, Moscow has again tried to shift the narrative away from the Kremlin's doorstep, pushing the blame instead on the West.
The Malaysian airliner was shot down over eastern Ukraine
In direct contrast to every other country's response to the disaster, Russia's Ministry of Defence claimed it saw MH17 detour from its route at the same time a Ukrainian warplane flew overhead and a US satellite flew over Ukraine.
Lieutenant-General Igor Makushev told a news briefing in Moscow that Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jets had flown within 3km and 5km (2 to 3 miles) of the Malaysian Airlines jet prior to it crashing.
Lieutenant-General Igor Makushev
Reporters at the briefing stated the spokesman added: "Is it a coincidence that the time of the MH17 crash is the same as a US satellite flew over Ukraine?"
Russian MOD: "Is it a coincidence that the time of the #MH17 crash is the same as a U.S. satellite flew over Ukraine?" Good lord.
— max seddon (@maxseddon) July 21, 2014
As the pointing of fingers escalates, the Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko swiftly responded by flatly denying Russia’s claims, specifically the assertion that a military plane flew within 3km to 5km of MH17.
“My immediate reaction - this is not true,” he told CNN.
“Everybody knows that in this period of time when the tragedy happened all Ukrainian planes were on the ground (in the area).”
Speaking after the latest accusations, David Cameron insisted that Ukraine had no missile systems in range at the time that MH17 crashed, while President Barack Obama insisted President Vladimir Putin had to “pivot away” from the narrative that anyone other than pro-Russian fighters were to blame.
But Putin showed no sign of abandoning the separatists as fighting flared anew near the site of the crash and on Tuesday Russia called for the investigation into the downing of the plane to be led by the "international community" and not Ukraine.
"This situation is quite unique, the area is a war zone. I think the international community should be flexible about that and act in a way acceptable to all sides," Russian ambassador to Malaysia Lyudmila Vorobyeva said in a news conference on Tuesday.
"Russia has been calling for a fair, thorough and full investigation led by ICAO since the beginning," she said.
ICAO is the United Nation's International Civil Aviation Organisation. Under ICAO rules the country where the incident happened, in this case Ukraine, should lead the investigation.
A close-up of the debris from the Malaysia Airlines plane
Russia, under intense international pressure over its arming of insurgents blamed by the West for firing a missile which struck the passenger aircraft, last night backed a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in the area to allow a full international inquiry.
Meanwhile, the pro-Russian rebels blamed for shooting down the plane have given the black box flight recorders to Malaysian officials in Donetsk in a bizarre late-night ceremony.
The flight recorders are handed over in Donetsk
Bowing to international pressure, pro-Moscow separatists released a train packed with bodies and handed over the data recorders from the downed plane.
The two flight recorders are "in good condition", according to Malaysian Colonel Mohamed Sakri, who received them from Aleksander Borodai, prime minister of the self-styled Donetsk People's Republic.
"I can see that the black boxes are intact, although a bit damaged," he said, extending his thanks to "His Excellency Mr Borodai" for passing them on.
Ukraine's deputy prime minister, Volodymyr Groysman, has claimed that pro-Russian rebels have tampered with the black boxes.
In turn, the pro-Russian separatists refused to give the black boxes to the Ukrainian side "because they are afraid the evidence would be tampered with."
As the diplomatic fallout from the disaster continues, EU foreign ministers will meet on Tuesday to discuss imposing new sanctions on Russia.
Britain hopes the meeting will lead to the implementation of extended sanctions on specific Russian businesses, organisations and individuals.
It comes as the bodies of flight victims began a long journey back to the Dutch city where they boarded the downed airliner almost five days ago.
STORY CONTINUES BELOW:
Broader sanctions, which could target wider sectors of the Russian economy, such as financial services, energy exports, trade and defence co-operation could also be discussed.
However, diplomats told the Reuters news agency that foreign ministers were unlikely to punish Russia beyond speeding up the imposition of individual sanctions that have already been agreed.
Cameron has called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to end his support for the fighters and warned Moscow it faced international isolation, including a "new range of hard-hitting economic sanctions".
The PM said in the House of Commons on Monday that Russia is facing a "defining moment".
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