It seems clear that the Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile defense regiment A-1402 was overran and looted by pro-Russian forces on June 29th. This unit operated the SA-11/17 "Buk" medium-range mobile air defense system, an advanced cousin of the SA-6, that is thought to have been used in the MH17 attack.
Since then, "Buk" components have been seen and photographed around contested and rebel controlled areas in Eastern Ukraine, one was even photographed near the impact point of MH17, in Snejnoe, adding to the theory that pro-Russian rebels shot down MH17 by mistake. While another, seen below, was spotted traveling on a highway near the area.
Meanwhile, Russia's news agencies are implying that it was an assassination attempt onhttp://youtu.be/Yoz8nAp9x6w Vladmir Putin who was flying in the region on his way back from South America. Such reports seem coincidental at best.
Even an air traffic controller claims MH17 was being escorted by Ukrainian fighters at the time of incident. Also, there is supposedly a radio transmission between pro-Russian militants that says they shot down a civilian jet by accident, although the authenticity of the conversation is suspect. So there is a lot of conflicting reports out there, although the taking of missile defense unit A-1402 by separatists and the newly surfaced pictures of "Buk" systems in the region add a lot of evidence to the possibility that the downing of MH17 was a rebel operation.
With all this in mind, one has to wonder how Western intelligence agencies did not alert ICAO that there were SAMs in pro-Russian rebel hands capable of reaching up and taking down airliners flying high-up in the flightlevels. This is especially relevant considering the downing of a high-flying the An-26 just days earlier, not to mention Russia's massive buildup of air defense capabilities on the border. If the airspace was indeed open, then this whole disaster could have been averted by simply warning civilian flights to steer clear of the area.
Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer that maintains the website Foxtrot Alpha for Jalopnik.com You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address Tyler@Jalopnik.com