"My mother and I were in the yard when it happened," said Pyotr Fedotov, a 58-year-old resident. "There was such a bang that we involuntarily sat down, in the yard, our legs gave way underneath us. Then we got curious and immediately went to the other side of the house to take a look."
"The rocket was here, it wiggled around, then some kind of rocket stage separated, and then, somewhere toward Lutuhyne, Torez, I saw the plane fall apart in the air. It was only later that we found out it was a Boeing," Fedotov said.
Missiles from a BUK battery can often zig-zag through the air for a few seconds after launch before their onboard radar locks on and steers the missile towards the target, according to video footage of test launches posted on the Internet.
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Taken together, the accounts do not conclusively prove the missile launched from near Chervonyi Zhovten was the one that brought down the airliner, because none of the villagers saw it actually being launched.
Nor could they shed light on a contention of officials in Kiev and in Western states, that the BUK missile battery was brought in from Russia and was operated by a Russian crew. Moscow has denied its military is active in eastern Ukraine.
When interviewed by Reuters, Fedotov, the witness who described the 'wiggling' rocket, at first said on camera that it was fired from territory held by the Ukrainian army. Later, off camera, he said it was launched from a nearby rebel area. Asked why he had originally said the opposite, he said it was because he was afraid of the rebels.
He gave a Reuters reporter directions to a field 1.5 km from the village, which he said had been identified to him by local farm workers as the point from which the missile battery had launched the rocket.
When Reuters visited the site in February, there were no signs of any missile launch.
Russian and separatist officials have said that Ukrainian military aircraft were overhead at the time the Malaysian airliner came down. They have said that if an anti-aircraft missile was launched in the vicinity, it was to bring down a Ukrainian warplane. They have also suggested a Ukrainian fighter aircraft may have shot down the Malaysian airliner.
Washington believes that pro-Russian separatists most likely shot down the airliner "by mistake," not realizing it was a civilian passenger flight, U.S. intelligence officials have said..
An official of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence told Reuters: "Our previous assessment still holds."
The investigation into the cause of the disaster is being led by authorities in the Netherlands, as two-thirds of those on board were Dutch. An interim report published in September which was based on data from the aircraft's black box recorders, photographic and radar evidence, and satellite imagery, said the Boeing was brought down by "high energy objects" in its vicinity -- consistent with attack from the air or the ground.
"The investigation is ongoing and for as long as it is ongoing we cannot give any conclusions," Sara Vernooij, a spokeswoman for the Dutch Safety Board which is handling the case, told Reuters when approached for comment on this story.
A former rebel from the separatist Vostok battalion, who for security reasons asked to be identified only by his first name, Igor, told Reuters that a BUK battery was in Chervonyi Zhovten on July 17, and he himself was not far from the village.
Igor said the battery's mission was to discourage Ukrainian Su-25 ground attack jets from attacking separatist targets in the area. A BUK missile had been launched against the Ukrainian jets half an hour before the Malaysia Airlines Boeing came down, forcing the Ukrainian pilots to pull out, he said.