Will Stevens, the spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Russia, tweeted today that the world has spent “[T]oo much energy” trying to determine who specifically shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine.
Stevens deleted the tweet, but The Daily Beast screencapped it before it disappeared.
Relations soured between the West and Russia after the Kremlin invaded eastern Ukraine in March 2014 and annexed Crimea. The relationship plummeted after MH17 was shot down, with evidence suggesting Russian artillery was used against the commercial airliner.
In October, the U.S. Embassy in Russia said their employees faced “increased harassment and psychological pressure while working in Moscow.” Russia’s Foreign Ministry immediately denied the report, but the U.S. State Department’s Inspector General’s Office said the “employees face intensified pressure by the Russian security services at a level not seen since the days of the Cold War.”
Stevens told the office the harassment “prompted” officials to confront “various interlocutors within the Russian government.” President Barack Obama reportedly discussed the issue with President Vladimir Putin.
After months of research on the MH17 case, a Dutch investigation by the safety board discovered that a 9N314M warhead from a 9M38 series missile fired from a Buk manufactured by a Russian Almaz-Antey company shot down MH17. All 298 people died in the majestic sunflower field on July 17, 2014, over eastern Ukraine. The report documented their last moments:
After the warhead detonated outside the cockpit and instantly killed three crew members with shrapnel, the rest of the passengers were exposed to many “extreme” factors, including “abrupt deceleration and acceleration, decompression and associated mist formation, decrease in oxygen level, extreme cold, strong airflow, the aeroplane’s very rapid descent and objects flying around.”
The blast was powerful enough to tear the cockpit away from the rest of the aircraft. According to the report, the missile detonated only a few meters away from the cockpit, close enough to make its detonation clearly audible in cockpit recordings.