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Initial U.S. review suggests pro-Russian separatists shot down Malaysia Airlines flight

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An initial review of US intelligence suggests pro-Russian separatists likely shot down a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine, but Washington is still examining the evidence, a US official said Friday.

“There are indications (the separatists downed the plane) but there’s no final conclusion,” the US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

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Military and intelligence analysts were still poring over satellite and other data and there were still unanswered questions. But a preliminary review suggested the airliner was hit by a SA-11, a common variant of Russian-made Buk surface-to-air missile.

At the UN Security Council, Washington’s UN ambassador Samantha Power said the United States believed Flight MH17 was hit by a missile fired from the eastern region held by pro-Russian separatists.

US officials on Thursday had said intelligence analysts concluded that the Boeing 777 airliner — which had 298 people on board — was shot out of the sky by a surface-to-air missile.

The plane was flying at about 33,000 feet (10,000 meters) when it went down, putting it well within reach of Russian-made missiles possessed by both Ukrainian and Russian forces.

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The Buk surface-to-air missile systems are “fairly sophisticated” and require some training to use, as a radar operator must coordinate with those launching the weapon, the US official said.

“It begs a lot of questions,” the official said.

The training needed to employ the missiles raised the possibility that the pro-Moscow separatists may have received help from the Russians, that Russian operatives were on the ground or that Russian troops on the other side of the border launched the missile in error, other officials said.

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At the United Nations, Power said it was “unlikely that the separatists could effectively operate the system without assistance from knowledgeable personnel.”

“Thus we cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel in operating the systems,” she said.

Ukraine’s government also had the Buk systems but there was no evidence Kiev had those missiles in the area where the plane was shot down, according to Power.

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She also said Ukrainian forces have not fired a single missile at an aircraft during the conflict, despite alleged violations of their airspace.


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Mitt Romney used his secret Twitter account to like a tweet about removing Trump from office via the 25th Amendment: report

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During the Ukraine scandal, Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah hasn’t been shy about criticizing President Donald Trump for trying to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Romney hasn’t actually said that he would vote “guilty” if the U.S. House of Representatives does issue articles of impeachment against Trump and sends the trial to the U.S. Senate, but according to a report by Slate’s Ashley Feinberg, the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP presidential nominee liked a tweet that flirted with the idea of removing Trump from office via the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

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Trump Organization boasts about India towers just days after Eric Trump says family doesn’t do international business

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The Trump Organization undermined Eric Trump's lie about the president's family ending its international business dealings.

President Donald Trump's second son falsely claimed last week to Fox News host Laura Ingraham that he and his siblings "got out of all international business" after their father took office.

"The difference between us and Hunter (Biden) is, when my father became commander in chief of this country, we got out of all international business," Eric Trump said.

However, the Trump Organization run by Eric Trump and his older brother Donald Trump Jr. sent out a tweet Monday morning promoting the Trump Towers in Pune, India.

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Trump struggles to regain his footing after a week from hell leaves the White House in turmoil

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Donald Trump has had some bad weeks in office, but rarely has the US president seen one as difficult as the week ending Sunday, with members of both parties as well as US diplomats rebelling over his Syria and Ukraine policies, while a public uproar forced him to beat a late-night retreat over his choice of a Trump golf resort to host next year's G7 meeting.

The week began with Trump's stunning announcement -- over Twitter -- that he was pulling American troops out of Syria and abandoning their Kurdish allies as Turkey prepared for what seemed sure to be a bloody invasion. The blast of criticism from Republican lawmakers had no precedent during Trump's time in office.

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