MH17 crash: Dutch ask Russia to submit new claims

In this file photo taken on September 09, 2014 shows part of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 at the crash site in the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), some 80km east of Donetsk.
Image caption The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was brought down over eastern Ukraine as conflict raged on the ground

Dutch prosecutors investigating the downing of flight MH17 have said they will study any information that Russia provides, after its officials said they had proof the missile that hit the plane was in Ukrainian hands.

The Malaysian aircraft went down with the loss of 298 lives in July 2014.

Russian officials have repeatedly pointed the finger of blame at Ukraine.

They accused an international team of investigators of using fake videos to show the missile had come from Russia.

Prosecutors say Russian information so far has been wrong “on several points” and previous requests for help have been unanswered.

What do investigators say happened?

In May, the international joint investigation team (JIT) concluded that the Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine by a Russian-made Buk missile, supplied by the country’s 53rd anti-aircraft brigade in Kursk.

The team provided images, video, and an animation of a convoy of Buk-Telar rockets heading from Russia in late June 2014, with the Buk in question being transported by a Volvo truck with a white cabin.

Australia and the Netherlands said in response to the findings that they held Russia responsible for bringing down the passenger jet, appealing to Russia to accept its responsibility and co-operate fully.

What is Russia arguing?

In an apparent attempt to hit back at the JIT’s conclusions, Russian defence officials alleged on Monday that some of the videos showing the Buk missile system were fabricated, with the tow truck carrying the missile added later.

They said the missile was made at Dolgoprudny outside Moscow in 1986 and then delivered by rail to a military unit in the Ternopol area of Ukraine.

Document in Russian said to show that Buk missile was made in Russia but moved to Ukraine
Image caption Russian officials produced a log book purporting to show that the missile that brought down MH17 was produced in Russia in 1986

They also provided an audio recording, alleging that it showed Ukrainian servicemen in 2016 saying they would bring down “another Malaysian Boeing”.

Russia has given differing accounts over time of how MH17 was shot down in eastern Ukraine, as conflict raged between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces.

At one point, Russian officials said the Boeing 777 was downed by a Ukrainian air-to-air missile fired by a Ukrainian fighter. Russian TV even produced a much-ridiculed satellite photograph purporting to show the moment of attack.

What reaction has there been?

The joint investigation team in the Netherlands responded to Russia by saying it would “meticulously study” its information as soon as the documents were made available.

In a statement, the JIT said it had always carefully analysed information provided by Russia, and found that information “previously presented to the public and provided to the JIT was factually inaccurate on several points”.

Russia had left unanswered a request to provide all relevant information in 2014, as well as a specific request last May for details about recovered missile parts, the team said. Investigators highlighted a UN Security Council resolution in 2016 which obliged all states to co-operate fully with the international investigation.

Ukraine’s Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak dismissed Russia’s claim as a lie and “another fake story”.

Eliot Higgins, who set up the Bellingcat online investigation website after the downing of MH17, said Russian defence officials had misinterpreted shadows and objects in their attempt to show there was a problem with lighting in the videos produced by international investigators.

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