MH17: Russia dismisses report finding rebels responsible for downing plane as 'biased and politically motivated'

International prosecutors say Buk missile used to down passenger plane was from Russia

Lizzie Dearden
Wednesday 28 September 2016 16:07 BST
The Joint Investigation Team found the missile was fired by pro-Russian rebels but did not name suspects
The Joint Investigation Team found the missile was fired by pro-Russian rebels but did not name suspects

The Russian government has dismissed an investigation showing that separatist rebels downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 with a missile system from Russia as “biased and politically motivated”.

Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the foreign ministry in Moscow, claimed Russian officials had been prevented from playing a full role in the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team’s (JIT) work.

“To arbitrarily designate a guilty party and dream up the desired results has become the norm for our Western colleagues,” she said.

“The investigation to this day continues to ignore incontestable evidence from the Russian side despite the fact that Russia is practically the only one sending reliable information to them.”

MH17: Rebels found responsible for shooting down Malaysia Airlines plane with Russian Buk missile

Ms Zakharova also suggested that the Ukrainian government had been able to influence the inquiry using fabricated evidence.

International prosecutors found pro-Russian rebels were responsible for shooting down MH17 and killing all 298 people on board on 17 July 2014, during the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

A report by the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) said there was “no doubt” the missile that downed the plane was brought in from Russia and fired from rebel-controlled territory as militants sought to fend off attacks by the Ukrainian air force.

Investigators pinpointed the launch site atop a hill in farmland west of Pervomaiskyi, having traced the convoy carrying the Buk from the Russian border through Donetsk, Torez, Snizhne and on to the launch site in the hours before MH17 was downed.

A statement from the JIT described its evidence as “irrefutable”, offering video footage, photographs, satellite images and recordings of tapped phone calls between rebels.

In several, men’s voices are heard discussing the transport of the Buk missile system to and from Russia, while audio previously released by Ukrainian officials appeas to show a panicked militant telling a superior: “It was 100 per cent a passenger aircraft…there are civilian items, medicinal stuff, towels, toilet paper.”

Shortly after MH17’s disappearance, a post attributed to separatist leader Igor Girkin, a Russian army veteran known as Strelkov, claimed rebels had shot down a Ukrainian military transport plane.

The swiftly-deleted post on Russian social network VKontakte was accompanied by a video of rising smoke and said: “We warned them - don’t fly in our sky.”

Separatist groups have since denied any involvement in the disaster, while Russian officials have continually dismissed allegations of soldiers or equipment being deployed in Ukraine.

In its own investigation, Russian Buk manufacturer Almaz Antey claimed the deadly missile was fired from Zaroschenskoye and that Ukrainian forces were stationed there at the time.

“We investigated this and have been able to establish that this was not the launch location, and moreover that it was controlled by pro-Russian rebels at the time,” said Wilbert Paulissen, head of the Dutch Central Crime Investigation Department.

The JIT said it had only received partial responses to its requests for information from Russian authorities and had not yet been sent primary radar data cited by officials at the Kremlin.

Comprising prosecutors from the countries with the most passengers on board the flight – the Netherlands, Australia, Malaysia and Belgium – and Ukraine, the JIT previously said it would “ensure the independence of the investigation”.

The body has primary responsibility for establishing the case for prosecutions after the UN Security Council failed to adopt a resolution that would have established an international tribunal for prosecuting those responsible for downing MH17 at a meeting in July 2015.

No suspects were named in Wednesday’s report but investigators said they were looking at around 100 people linked to the downing of MH17 or the transport of the Buk missile.

A spokesperson for the JIT said officials are also looking at the chain of command that led to the disaster, adding: “Who gave the order to bring the BUK-TELAR into Ukraine and who gave the order to shoot down flight MH17? Did the crew decide for themselves or did they execute a command from their superiors?"

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