UNITED NATIONS — Ukraine's U.N. ambassador said Thursday that the Malaysian airliner would not have crashed if Russia hadn't given pro-Russian separatists a sophisticated missile system that can hit planes.
Yuriy Sergeyev told The Associated Press in an interview that Russia bears responsibility for the crash, along with the separatists, whom he called "terrorists."
Sergeyev was responding to Russian President Vladimir Putin's statement that Ukraine bears responsibility "for this tragedy," which Putin said wouldn't have happened if there was peace in Ukraine. Putin didn't address the question of who might have shot down the plane and didn't accuse Ukraine of doing so.
"It could not have happened if Russia has not supplied the terrorists with sophisticated weaponry, with tanks, with artillery and with this missile system," Sergeyev said.
The plane carried 295 people, and Sergeyev said "from the ground, it's obvious that all the passengers, they were killed."
The ambassador said intercepted phone calls between the separatists and Russian military intelligence, which he said Ukraine's intelligence agency has posted online, indicate the separatists first thought the plane was a military aircraft.
After the separatists went to the site and discovered it was a civilian plane, Sergeyev said, they responded like "animals."
"They said, 'OK who are they flying over us? We warned them not to fly here, and not to bring the spies, the mercenaries from the West' ... and said the aircraft should not have been flying over eastern Ukraine," he said.
The phone calls could not be independently verified.
Sergeyev also said the Ukrainian government is collecting "more proof that the terrorists stand behind (the crash) and Russia stands behind the terrorists."
He said the government is waiting for confirmation "from those who have satellite facilities," and President Petro Poroshenko has pledged to assist an international investigation of the crash.
Poroshenko has insisted that his forces did not shoot down the plane.