Near Crash Site, Stories Of The Jet Cleave Closely To Russian Version
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
U.S. intelligence officials outlined today what they know so far about the downing of the Malaysian Airlines flight in Ukraine. A U.S. spy satellite detected the launch of a surface to air missile from eastern Ukraine at the time the plane went down.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
They were also able to verify the identities of separatist leaders on an intercepted phone call. But U.S. intelligence does not yet know yet who - and this is a quote - "who pulled the trigger."
CORNISH: Meanwhile, Dutch and Malaysian experts have begun examining the wreckage of the plane. NPR's Corey Flintoff reports next from the villages nearby.
COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: Our first stop is the village of Petropavlovsk, about an hour's drive from Donetsk. Villagers found what experts say may be a key piece of evidence - a four-foot wide section of the plane's aluminum skin that shows what may be holes caused by shrapnel. The wreckage is propped up alongside the road, but members of the Parhoshenko family say it fell into their garden and killed their cat. As they're describing their experience, Sergei Parhoshenko, a minor, makes a startling comment through the interpreter.
SERGEI PARHOSHENKO: (Through translator) The people seen two military planes.
FLINTOFF: Did you see this yourself with your own eyes?
Parhoshenko says it was his neighbor who saw the planes. His wife, Ludmilla, says she didn't see them either, but she's convinced that Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko is behind the attack that downed the plane.
LUDMILLA: (Through translator) They don't mind that Poroshenko would be president, but you see what he did, he's shelling us all the time and we cannot go rest, we cannot work, we just hear this shelling and that's it.
FLINTOFF: As we're talking, a neighbor rides up on his bicycle. He's Vitaly Parasich, another minor with a surprising claim.
VITALY PARASICH: (Through translator) He saw some parachute with some guy but the parachute didn't come up really good. He didn't come up. It's not only him, he asked his wife, listen, do you see the parachute? Is it parachute? She said yes, a parachute. And his neighbor was standing there by him and he asked the neighbor, listen, is it parachute or not? They said this is parachute. But the guy who jumped with the parachute is probably dead because parachute didn't open.
FLINTOFF: Yeah, so nobody saw the body of this guy after he came down?
PARASICH: Foreign language spoken.
FLINTOFF: Parasich says no. They think the body may have fallen into a nearby forest. So far, what the villagers have been saying tracks closely with stories that have been airing on Russian media. That includes a briefing that was given by Russia's Defense Ministry that asserted there were Ukrainian war planes in the air when the Malaysia flight was shot down.
That contradicted the narrative given by Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday. He blamed pro-Russian separatists for downing the plane. Kerry said there was strong circumstantial evidence that Russia provided a mobile missile launcher used in the attack. I was working with another reporter who's been trying to locate the site where a photo was taken that purports to show the missile system in the town of Torez. We found the site of the photo and interviewed about a dozen residents nearby. All of them insisted that they had not seen any missile launcher in the area on that day. This is Svetlana Ivashenko.
(Foreign language spoken.)
FLINTOFF: She says she saw that photo on the Internet and she's convinced that it's a fake. That's just a sampling of what investigators are likely to hear when they start talking to witnesses, and it suggests that they have a difficult job ahead. Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Donetsk. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.