Pilot blamed by Russia for MH17 disaster dies

Vladyslav Voloshyn, an Ukrainian military pilot blamed by Russia for shooting down flight MH17, has died. He was killed by gunshots, Ukrainian media report, quoting the local police.

According to Ukrainian media outlet NikVesti, the 29-year-old pilot committed suicide in his apartment in Mykolaiv while his family was at home. They heard a gunshot and called the emergency services. Voloshyn was rushed to hospital, but died of his injuries. Rumors of assassination since the report was published alternately accuse both Russia and Ukraine of pulling the trigger.

Voloshyn was a pilot of a SU-25 low-flying ground attack jet for the Ukrainian military at the time of the MH17 disaster. A colleague of his, Evgeni Agapov, told Russia that Voloshyn accidentally shot down the Malaysia Airlines flight, because he confused the aircraft with another plane, according to the Telegraaf. Russia first reported this anonymously, but later revealed Agapov's identity. 

In a BBC documentary, Voloshyn denied any involvement in the downing of MH17. He said that the accusations are unfounded and that he is the victim of a Russian smear campaign."A former military comrade of mine, a mechanical engineer, issued false statements. We did not even fly that day. He said that we performed three flights, but that was six days later."

After investigation, the Dutch Safety Board concluded that flight MH17 was shot down by a Russian BUK missile system. The Joint Investigation Team later determined that the missile system was driven from Russia to Ukraine shortly before the disaster on 17 July 2014, fired from a field that was controlled by pro-Russian separatists, and then taken back to Russia.

Ukrainian media describe Voloshyn as a war hero. According to NikVesti, he flew 33 combat missions against Russian backed separatists in eastern Ukraine with his Su-25. He resigned from the Ukrainian military for family reasons when one of his children fell ill. He was recently put in charge of the Maykolaiv airport.

Family members of Voloshyn told NikVesti that he was depressed for some time and "expressed alarming intentions". The Ukrainian police launched an investigation into his death.