When meeting for interviews with American filmmaker Oliver Stone, Russian President Vladimir Putin mentioned the widely discredited reports that a Spanish air traffic controller at Kiev’s airport Borispol supposedly witnessed two Ukrainian fighter jets near Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, three minutes before it disappeared from radars and crashed in rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine.
Putin’s remarks to Stone, made on July 4, 2015, will appear in a book published next month titled “An Interview With Vladimir Putin,” according to the Russian television network Dozhd, which obtained an advance copy of the book.
“As far as I know, immediately after this terrible catastrophe, one of the Ukrainian air traffic controllers — I believe he’s a specialist of Spanish origin — announced that he’d seen a fighting machine in the vicinity of this civilian airliner. The only fighting machine that could have been in that area would have been Ukrainian,” Putin said.
The Russian president also argued that, if the passenger jet had been hit by a rocket fired from the ground, it could only have come from a position controlled by the Ukrainian army. “As for the Buk [missile] system, a land-to-air system, according to our experts, and not just our state intelligence services but also our ballistics experts, the plane was hit in the tail,” Putin elaborated.
It is unclear why this exchange never aired in Oliver Stone’s interview series, broadcast on the premium cable channel Showtime.
Vladimir Putin is hardly the first Russian official to support the “Spanish dispatcher” story in the MH17 tragedy. The “dispatcher” story was later traced back to tweets from an account belonging to Carlos Spainbuca, a name that matches no air traffic controller working in Ukraine. The account later renamed itself Lyudmila Lopatyshkina. No evidence has ever emerged corroborating claims that an air trafficker controller working in Kiev witnessed any fighter jets flying near MH17 before it was shot down.
The Joint Investigation Team that worked on the MH17 crash has also refuted Putin’s claim that the plane was hit in its tail. According to the team’s extensive research, published more than a year after Putin’s remarks to Stone, a missile hit the plane near its nose, exploding on the pilot's side of the aircraft.