Putin denies Russian Federation responsible for MH17 downing

Friday, 25 May, 2018

Bodies, debris and burning wreckage were strewn over a field of sunflowers near the rebel-held village of Hrabove in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, about 25 miles from the Russian border, where fighting had been raging for months.

The U.S.is affirming new findings from investigators linking the 2014 downing of a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane to the Russian military.

The Dutch Safety Board concluded in an October 2015 report that the Boeing 777 was struck by a Russian-made Buk missile.

Kurt Volker, the special US envoy for Ukraine, said on May 24 that the JIT's latest report was "very significant" because it underlines "the lack of ambiguity that there is indeed a direct responsibility in Russian Federation".

Investigators on Thursday said the missile that shot down the plane was sacked from a missile launcher in Russia's 53rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade, but stopped short of saying who actually fired the fatal shot.

Russian Federation said on Friday the Netherlands had provided no evidence that Moscow was directly behind the shooting down of flight MH17, accusing the Dutch of promoting their own agenda.

Despite longstanding suspicion and a mounting body of evidence pointing to Russia's involvement, this is the first time governments have officially accused Moscow over the incident.

Chief investigator Fred Westerbeke said Thursday the probe was now in its "last phase" but added there was "still work to be done".

Russian Federation is rejecting the claim by the Netherlands and Australia that it is legally responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over war-ravaged eastern Ukraine almost four years ago, killing all 298 people on board.

Investigators painstakingly recreated the BUK missile system's route from Kursk across the border into rebel-held eastern Ukraine using videos and photos.

Rescuers seen at the site of the MH17 plane crash in Ukraine. File
Sputnik Andrei SteninMH17 Probe'Everything Points to the Ukrainian Side – Analyst

He recalled that Ukraine is also accused of downing the plane, so the question arises "what are they doing in this investigation group?"

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, has said that Russia has been barred from the worldwide investigation and thus can't trust its results.

"How is it that such a sophisticated weapon belonging to the Russian army was dispatched to Ukraine, used to shoot down a civilian aircraft and then returned to Russia?"

On Friday, the Russian defence ministry issued a fresh statement suggesting all Buk missiles with the serial numbers indicated by the JIT had been destroyed in Russia in 2011, suggesting the missile must have come from the Ukrainian armed forces.

"Australia and the Netherlands have now informed the Russian Federation that we hold it responsible under worldwide law for its role in the bringing down of MH17", said Julie Bishop, Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs. "We are considering what options are available to us and we'll be working with our partners in other nations".

If the investigation identifies and charges any suspects - and they can be arrested and brought to trial - they will be prosecuted in Dutch courts.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he had been informed by his Dutch counterpart Stef Blok that "they have practically no doubt that the BUK came from Russian Federation".

"This is an important piece of the puzzle", Blok said.

"This indicates that the court is not necessarily unbiased [and] I want to add that, in addition to everything, they did not provide evidence", Mirkovic stressed.

"State responsibility comes into play when states fail to uphold provisions of worldwide law and that's clearly the case", Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters in The Hague.