By Gabriela Baczynska
MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Russian company that makes the BUK air defense system that was used to shoot down a Malaysian airliner in east Ukraine said on Tuesday the plane was hit by a missile deployed by Ukraine and not widely used by Russia's military.
State-run Almaz-Antey said its own analysis of the wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines plane brought down on July 17 last year, killing 298 people, indicated it was hit by a BUK 9M38M1 surface-to-air missile armed with a 9H314M warhead.
Shrapnel holes in the plane were consistent with that kind of missile and warhead, it said.
Such missiles have not been produced in Russia since 1999 and the last ones were delivered to foreign customers, it said, adding that the Russian armed forces now mainly use a 9M317M warhead with the BUK system.
"Neither the company nor its enterprises could have supplied these rockets in the 21st century," Almaz-Antey's chief executive, Yan Novikov, told a news conference run by the Kremlin press service at which the company used 3D visuals and computer animation.
After a company presentation translated simultaneously into three languages, he said Ukraine's armed forces had still had nearly 1,000 such missiles in its arsenal in 2005, when it held talks with Almaz-Antey on prolonging their lifespan.
Criticizing sanctions imposed on Almaz-Antey by the European Union, he said: "The corporation was not involved in the Malaysian Boeing catastrophe. Correspondingly, the economic sanctions applied to the corporation for that are ... unjust."
When it imposed the sanctions on Almaz-Antey, the EU said the firm produced anti-aircraft weaponry which the Russian authorities have supplied to pro-Russian separatists fighting Kiev's forces in east Ukraine.
Moscow is trying to deflect blame for the shooting down of the airliner and denies sending arms and soldiers to support the rebels, though the West and Kiev say they have overwhelming proof of the latter.
Russian officials initially said flight MH17 was shot down by a Ukrainian fighter jet but that version was widely ridiculed abroad. They now say it was probably hit by a missile fired from the ground by Ukrainian forces.
Ukraine has denied its forces shot the plane down.
Dutch investigators who are leading an international investigation say their "leading scenario" is that it was hit by a Russian-made BUK.
(Editing by Timothy Heritage)