MH17 disaster: Germany 'failed to warn of Ukraine risk'

Dutch investigators at MH17 crash scene (16 April) Image copyright EPA
Image caption Dutch investigators returned to the crash scene this month to try to identify more victims

The German government was told of the risk of flying over eastern Ukraine shortly before flight MH17 was shot down last July, but failed to pass on the alert, reports say.

Diplomatic cables sent two days before the crash said the situation had become "very alarming", German media say.

The cables cited the downing on 14 July of a Ukrainian air force plane at a height of about 6,000m (20,000ft).

Flight MH17 was brought down three days later, with the loss of 298 lives.

The Malaysia Airlines plane had been flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and 196 of those on board were Dutch.

A Dutch-led international inquiry says one of the main scenarios for the disaster was that the plane was shot down by a Russian-made Buk missile launcher.

Investigators have appealed for witnesses to the launcher's arrival in a rebel-controlled area shortly before the crash. Their final report is due to be published in October.

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'No communique'

According to German public TV channels NDR and WDR and Sueddeutsche Zeitung, the foreign ministry cables had assessed the downing of the Antonov military plane on 14 July 2014 as a significant development because of its altitude at the time.

The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 had been flying at 10,000m (33,000 ft) when it was hit.

German intelligence had repeatedly warned of the risk to aviation security, the report adds.

And yet, a Lufthansa source tells German media that no communique was given to the airline of a change in the situation.

Three Lufthansa planes flew over the area on the day of the disaster - including one 20 minutes beforehand - and it was pure chance that none was hit, the report says. Other German airlines had been avoiding the region for some time.

"If the government had given our company a warning with an advisory of 'new status', then certainly Lufthansa would not have flown over eastern Ukraine any more," the source said.

Image caption Parts of the plane were found 8km (5 miles) from the main debris site

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