US acknowledges ‘Patriot’ participation in POW aircraft downing – New York Times

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The Patriot launcher given by the United States was used to shoot down the Russian Il-76 cargo above Belgorod on January 24, according to the New York Times, which cited unidentified US sources.

The plane was transporting 65 Ukrainian detainees who were to be swapped that afternoon, along with three observers and six crew members. There were no survivors. Ukraine originally claimed the kill, then stated that the planes were valid targets since they were carrying missiles, and then demanded a probe into what transpired.

Reports that a Patriot missile was used to shoot down the airliner “were accurate,” sources told the Times confidentially, on the condition of anonymity, as the US government has made no public statement. The missile was supplied to Ukraine by “a European partner,” the officials claimed, without naming the country.

In addition to the US, Germany and the Netherlands have supplied Kiev with the Patriot systems and missiles.

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American officials also told the NYT the Ukrainian military may not have known the POWs were on board and that the strike was based on “legitimate but flawed intelligence” because the same plane had been used to transport Russian missiles.

It “appeared probable that at least some” people on board may have been Ukrainian prisoners, but Russia “may have overstated” the number of deaths, according to unnamed US officials.

“If there were prisoners on the plane, as appears likely, American officials said the loss of life was regrettable,” the newspaper noted.

The majority of the report concentrated on the Ukrainians’ “innovative” use of Patriots, claiming to have shot down over a dozen Russian fighter planes with them since May last year. The New York Times and US authorities took these assertions at its value.

The Patriot was initially intended as an anti-aircraft weapon, but it was modified for ballistic missile interception during the First Gulf War in 1991. Contrary to popular belief, its real efficacy was rather modest.

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While initial reports on the crash of the Russian cargo claimed a French-made missile was involved, the French military swiftly issued a statement blaming the shoot-down on the US-made Patriot.

According to Russia’s Investigative Committee, the Il-76 was taken down by two MIM-104A surface-to-air missiles fired from a Patriot battery near the town of Liptsy, some 10 kilometers from the Russian border in Kharkov Region. The US government estimates that each missile costs around $4 million.

Moscow has accused Kiev of crimes against its own population, and Washington of participation in the terrible deaths of Ukrainian POWs.


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