Downing of MH17

Putin rejects Dutch and Australian claim of Russia role

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that there is "nothing that inspires confidence" in the international investigation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said that there is "nothing that inspires confidence" in the international investigation.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SAINT PETERSBURG • Russian President Vladimir Putin said the rocket that shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014 was "of course" not Russian, dismissing the Dutch and Australian decision to blame Moscow for the tragedy.

Asked at an economic forum in Saint Petersburg on Friday if the rocket was Russian, Mr Putin said: "Of course not".

The Russian leader added that there is "nothing that inspires confidence" in the international investigation. "There are different versions of this tragedy, but no one takes them into account," Mr Putin told the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum.

The Netherlands and Australia on Friday took the first step towards dragging Russia to court over the shooting down of the flight, accusing Moscow of being responsible for the disaster.

The move won swift support from international allies, a day after investigators concluded that the Russian-made BUK missile which tore apart the Boeing 777 passenger plane in mid-air on July 17, 2014 came from a Russian military brigade based in the south-western city of Kursk.

"There is but one conclusion to be made from yesterday's presentation, namely that Russia is thoroughly responsible for the deployment of this BUK system," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters.

All 298 people on the flight en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were killed when the missile slammed into the plane as it flew over territory held by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

The disaster sparked Western sanctions on Russia for its support of the separatists. The latest accusations of Russian culpability are fuelling tensions in the wake of the nerve-agent poisoning of a former Russian spy in England.

That March attack, also blamed on the Kremlin, led to the expulsions of dozens of diplomats from Russia's embassies in Europe and other Western capitals.

The Dutch government said in a statement that, together with Australia, it was holding Moscow "formally accountable" for the tragedy, and may now move towards submitting the complex dossier to an international judge or organisation.

Russia has repeatedly denied any responsibility in the disaster. Moscow has come up with numerous theories to deflect the blame and pointed the finger at Kiev.

Russia has "no reason to fully trust" the Dutch-led MH17 inquiry because it wasn't given full access to its work, Mr Putin said on Friday.

Russia's Defence Ministry on Friday denied supplying a Buk missile that took down MH17. The country is analysing videos presented by Dutch investigators, the ministry said in an e-mailed statement.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Dutch counterpart Stef Blok discussed the investigation's findings by phone, but Mr Lavrov heard no facts confirming Russia's responsibility, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said.

Russia has responded to all requests for legal aid from Dutch prosecutors, Mr Lavrov said, adding that Russia is ready to cooperate with the Netherlands if the investigation is transparent and fair.

Last July, the five countries working on the investigation - Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine - picked the Netherlands as the country where suspects will be prosecuted. So far, no suspect has been identified.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 27, 2018, with the headline 'Putin rejects Dutch and Australian claim of Russia role '. Print Edition | Subscribe