SINGAPORE - Separatists in Ukraine said they lack the firepower to have shot down Malaysia Airlines MH17 but their recent record of surface-to-air attacks suggested otherwise, TIME magazine reported.
Kuala Lumpur-bound MH17 crashed in the eastern region of Ukraine on Thursday night and killed all 298 passengers and crew, putting the spotlight on the growing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
One of the pro-Russia separatist leader Oleg Tsarev of the breakaway Donetsk People's Republic was quoted by TIME as saying: "We don't have weapons that can take down a plane from that altitude."
But just three weeks ago, the Russian state media had congratulated the rebels on their latest military acquisition: a set of Russian-made missile launchers seized from a Ukrainian air force base. "The Donetsk resistance fighters have captured an anti-aircraft military station," Kremlin's main television network Vesti declared.
On Monday, a Ukrainian military transport plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine, with the rebel leaders confirming on the same day that they had taken its four crew members hostage after they had ejected to safety. Two days later, another two Ukrainian military aircraft were reportedly shot down by the rebels.