Putin, Russian government try to deflect accusations

MOSCOW -- As U.S. officials pointed the finger at pro-Russian separatists and their sponsors in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin laid the blame elsewhere.

"This tragedy would not have happened," he said, "if the fighting had not been restarted in the south-east of Ukraine."

Russia's Defense Ministry went further, blaming the Ukrainian military. It claimed that an Ukranian Buk anti-aircraft missile battery had been operational in the border region. Though the Russians stopped short of saying there was any evidence it fired the fatal missile.

Russian citizens today laid flowers outside the Dutch and Malaysian embassies, but the tragedy has put the Russian government in an awkward situation.

One of the military commanders of the separatist rebels in Ukraine is Igor Girkin, a Russian citizen. Earlier this week, Girkin took credit for allegedly shooting down a military aircraft.

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A recording released by the Ukraine government caught Commander Byes telling his Russian handler that his men had shot down a plane, making it more difficult for Moscow to avoid responsibility for the rebels' actions.

While my team and I were in Ukraine a couple of months ago, Commander Byes and his men took us, blindfolded us and held us for hours for no apparent reason. And it appeared we were only released when a Russian commander intervened and gave the order.

  • Clarissa Ward

    Foreign Correspondent, CBS News

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