Naming witness ‘significant step’ in MH17 investigation

Dutch and Malaysian experts work on the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 Boeing en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. (RIA Novosti / Igor Maslov)
The public identification of a witness to the MH17 crash is crucial not only for the investigation but also for the international PR war surrounding the issue, says security analyst and former UK army officer Charles Shoebridge.

Russia's investigative committee has released the name of a key witness into the downing of MH17 over East Ukraine last July. The witness is Evgeny Agapov, an aviation armaments mechanic in the Ukrainian Air Force and he is currently under Russian state protection

Meanwhile on Tuesday a Russian missile manufacturer announced the results of its own probe. The BUK manfuactuer Almaz-Antey claims it knows what type of missile was responsible for the crash. The manufacturer says the damage caused to the aircraft is consistent with an outdated BUK M1 missile which has not been produced since 1999. The results of their analysis were passed on to international investigators.

READ MORE: Russian investigators reveal identity of key witness in MH17 crash

RT:Let's focus on the witness accounts revealed by Russian investigators first. How are they going to affect the international investigation?

Charles Shoebridge: The naming of this person is a significant step for a number of reasons. First of all, of course, it bolsters his credibility enormously and not only for the investigation but also in terms of the international PR war that is going on online and elsewhere around this whole issue of who was responsible for MH17 and what capital can be gained from it in a political sense. So the fact that he has been identified shows the obvious point that he actually exists – this person hasn’t just been made up. But more importantly, it does give credibility to what he is saying because he was a person in a position to actually know what he is talking about. He is a person who has been working in the Ukrainian Air Force, who had direct experience and knowledge - if what he is saying is true, of the situation on the ground in respect to this particular Su-25 fighter aircraft.

However, it’s also the case that on some level it’s going to be quite easy to attack his evidence. We should also add of course that the significance of his evidence isn’t just… evidence that a plane went up, came back having fired off, it would appear, some cannon ammunition. That of course is also crucially consistent with what Russian investigators and the Russian state have put forward...

Dutch and Malaysian experts work on the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 Boeing en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. (RIA Novosti / Igor Maslov)

RT:On Tuesday, Russia's BUK missiles manufacturer said the plane may have been brought down by an old BUK missile. Meanwhile the official international probe is yet to reveal its results. How is this going to play out?

CS: …With regard to this mechanic, it must be said that his evidence must be attacked on a number of fronts, whether he is telling the truth or not he can be attacked on these fronts. First of all, of course, it can be obviously said that he is just simply lying, that he has a motive to lie and people can look at that and find the motives they want to. But also what is going to be crucially important is the degree to which this witness’s evidence matches the physical evidence that has been taken from the ground. Let’s not forget that the scene was secured by, shall we say, the pro-Russian rebels on the ground at the time. The Dutch investigators have recovered a certain amount of evidence which then plays into a very significant development [on Tuesday] where the manufacturer of the BUK missile, that’s alleged to have been responsible by many for the shooting down, actually came out and said from the shrapnel and from the trajectory of the weapon that they have worked out.

And they do this not from some way of studying videos; they are the manufacturers of this weapon, they are engineers, scientists, they know everything about this weapon. They have said quite conclusively [on Tuesday], and this is very important, that this weapon is only in the hands of Ukraine and not in the hands of Russia. So this will immediately debunk the idea that Russia supplied this weapon. Although it wouldn’t necessarily debunk the idea that this weapon was fired by pro-Russian rebels because they could have captured, or as a result of a defector, a Ukrainian missile passed to them. There are many options still open. But also let’s not forget that Russian manufacturer put forward a theory based on a scientific analysis of where the weapon came from and this alleged to come from an area that was said to be under the Ukrainian government not rebel-controlled. So this is highly significant evidence that the official inquiry will have to take into account…

READ MORE: MH17 likely downed by old BUK-M1 missile system not used by Russia – manufacturer

Political analyst Aleksandar Pavic agrees that having an eyewitness in this investigation is a major development. He also suggests that Western mainstream media might try to marginalize this new witness and even discredit him.

“Whoever is after the truth about this whole tragic incident this will be very valuable information for them. But I just want to emphasize this is not new information, this is practically confirmation of testimony that appeared last July, just a few days after this incident. Namely, we had an OSCE monitor, a Canadian of Ukrainian origin, who testified before Canadian national television that he saw pockmarked debris of the downed airplane, which looked like machine gun fire which could have only come from a war plane that was nearby. We also had a Western aviation blog, called the Aviationist, only four days after the crash literally admitting that there were Ukrainian war planes in the vicinity of the passenger flight. Also, it’s known that the passenger plane diverted from the usual flight path that was taken by passenger planes just a day before on the same flight. This one was diverted directly over the war-time zone. So we have all these indicators that were available over a year now. We have a witness come forth – actually an eyewitness – to confirm all this is a very huge development.”

As for the official Dutch investigation, Pavic says it is taking too long, which makes everyone feel uncomfortable.

“We can safely bet that had anything been found to implicate Russia directly or so-called pro-Russian forces around Donetsk and Lugansk, I think the Commission would have come out with the truth by now, but they haven’t. So I think they don’t have anything to implicate Russia with and this is very uncomfortable news for them now. I think Western mainstream media is going to try very hard to marginalize this new proof and may even try to discredit this witness. But I think whoever is after the truth especially the families of the victims will have to listen very carefully to what this new witness said.”

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.