DECEMBER 08, 2017 02:00 AM
A semi-retired Russian three-star general oversaw the cross-border movements of a rocket launcher used to bring down a passenger jet in 2014 over eastern Ukraine, killing all aboard, an investigation by a team of reporting outlets has found.
The reporting team, made up of McClatchy and investigative websites Bellingcat (based in London) and The Insider (based in Moscow), identifies the general as Nikolai Fedorovich Tkachev.
His identification is potentially a breakthrough in a case that has frustrated Dutch and other investigators who have struggled for years to identify voices on a key phone intercept. They may now be closer to decoding the chain of command that brought down the unsuspecting Malaysia Air Flight 17 traveling above 30,000 feet.
In the intercept, a commander is heard giving orders and talking with junior officers; they appear to be discussing equipment associated with a missile launcher and used to move it.
The investigators, who had earlier asked for help in identifying perpetrators, were reviewing the new information about Tkachev and had no immediate comment on the findings.
The doomed flight originated in Amsterdam on July 17, 2014, bound for the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur with 283 passengers and 15 crew members aboard, including one American citizen. The flight was believed struck by a surface-to-air missile near the disputed border between Russia and Ukraine.
The identification of Tkachev follows rigorous analysis by experts on two continents of audio files that, along with other indicators, confirms with high likelihood that he’s the man heard on phone intercepts ordering the movement of the BUK missile launcher at the border in the days before and after the plane was downed.
Tkachev (pronounced Ka-chuf) is a semi-retired Russian general who received an award from leader Vladimir Putin in 2012 and then moved into reserve status after serving as deputy commander of Russia’s Eastern Military District.