Russia is standing firm in placing blame on the Ukrainian government for Thursday’s deadly attack on a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane.
But a Russia political risk expert says the circumstantial evidence is damning enough to convince the public of Moscow’s responsibility.
“People will probably want to wait for the investigation to have more of an official footing to be able to point a finger,” Carlo Gallo, a Russia political risk specialism and founder of Enquirisk, told Business Insider. “By and large, there is enough circumstantial evidence to convince public opinion that the Russians have responsibility in some way or another.”
U.S. officials have already said that it was most likely a surface-to-air missile from pro-Russia separatists that took down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine. Russia is widely thought to be backing the rebels.
Russia denies supplying the rebels, but President Barack Obama said in a news conference on Friday that the separatists “have received a steady flow of support from” the country.
Multiple agencies are investigating the crash. There is no conclusive evidence so far that points to either Russia or Ukraine as being responsible. So far, the circumstantial evidence points to the rebels.
Despite this, Russia is insisting that it had nothing to do with the attack, and Russian President Vladimir Putin says the Ukranian government is to blame.
Gallo said that if evidence continues to point to Russia, the European Union would be forced to respond.
“The question there is whether Russia will be cornered into a narrow position by the evidence or whether the evidence will remain too uncertain to point a finger,” he said.
Gallo also noted that Russian state media is playing a crucial role in the country’s propoganda campaign, spreading stories that are meant to convince citizens that Ukraine is responsible for downing the Malaysian plane.
The U.S. and its European allies don’t appear to be buying it, though.
“While we do not yet have all the facts, we do know that this incident occurred in the context of a crisis in Ukraine that is fuelled by Russian support for the separatists, including through arms, material, and training,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement on Friday.
Pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk region about 25 miles from the Russian border have previously admitted to using the Buk missile, which is the system thought to have been used in the attack Thursday.
The Malaysia Airlines plane was most likely mistaken for a Ukranian government aircraft. The Buk missile can fire at high-altitude targets, but is flawed in that it cannot tell the difference between military and civilian aircraft unless it’s linked to other weapons or an air-traffic control systems.
Nearly 300 people died in the attack.
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