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A rebel leader for the pro-Russian insurgency fighting against the Ukraine government claims responsibility for the shooting down a plane at about the same time that the Malaysia Flight 17 went down over Ukraine.
“We warned you not to fly in our skies,” said a web posting, subsequently taken down, purported to be from Igor Girkin, widely known by his nom de guerre Igor Strelkov.
Girkin is the defense minister of the separatist republic that it is battling to enforce Russia’s hold on the Ukraine. He is one of the most well-known faces of the pro-Russia insurgency in the Ukraine. Ukrainian authorities identify him as a veteran of the Russian military intelligence agency.
In a cached web version of a social web site page obtained by CBS News, Girkin quoted his militia’s claims that they had shot down a military plane. The time stamp on the initial post was 5:50 Moscow time July 17, 2014.
On Monday, a Ukrainian military transport plane was shot down along the country’s eastern border with Russia, the defense minister said. Rebels in conflict-wracked eastern Ukraine immediately claimed responsibility for downing the Antonov AN-26.
The leader of the military wing of the insurgency, Girkin, had over the weekend predicted a bitter fight for Luhansk, a city of 400,000, and estimated that Ukrainian forces had deployed up to 70 tanks in the offensive.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said the rebel leader was claiming responsibility for shooting down Malaysia Airlines flight #17; He was claiming to have shot down a plane at about the same time.