5 yrs since MH17 crash: Malaysia questions Dutch-led team’s findings as inconclusive probe drags on
Five years since Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was downed over eastern Ukraine, the probe drags on, producing more questions than answers. Not content with general Russia-blaming, Malaysia says it wants the culprits named.
On Wednesday, vigils great and small were held worldwide to mourn the 298 people that died when a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 went down over eastern Ukraine in July 2014. Relatives of the crash victims were seen holding pictures of their loved ones. Many people were filmed bringing toys, a reminder that the tragedy took the lives of 80 children.
July 17, 2014
Five years ago to the date, the wide-body plane took off at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport and headed for Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Hours later, radar contact with the aircraft was lost when it was traversing over eastern Ukraine. It crashed near the village of Grabovo (Hrabove) amid hostilities between Kiev’s troops and anti-government Donbass militias.
The ill-fated aircraft was of the same model as Malaysia Airlines’ flight MH370, which mysteriously vanished while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March 2014. Built in 1997, it had a robust maintenance record with no mechanical issues reported prior to the flight. No distress signal is said to have been sent by the crew of flight MH17, and the black boxes recorded nothing unusual until the readings abruptly stopped.
It is understood that 13:20 GMT (16:20 local time) was the moment an anti-air missile hit the plane.
What probes say
In the years since the tragedy, several investigations have been launched into the cause of the crash, and numerous experiments and simulations carried out, some of which even included live-fire tests.
The 15-month investigation by the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) said in 2015 that a Soviet-made Buk anti-aircraft missile downed the aircraft and defined a 320-square-kilometer area in eastern Ukraine from which it could have been fired. It noted that Kiev did not close the airspace over the region despite having enough grounds to do so. The question remained which of the conflicting sides in Ukraine actually fired the missile.
An international probe into the MH17 crash was taken on by the Netherlands-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which included Ukraine and excluded Russia. Heavily relying on evidence posted online, the probe maintained that it was pro-Russian separatists fighting the Ukrainian government forces who launched the Buk missile from the territory they controlled. The JIT later claimed the missile system belonged to a Russian air defense unit, echoing the findings of Bellingcat, an online investigative project with a pronounced anti-Russian slant. Most recently, the probe identified four Russian and Ukrainian nationals allegedly involved in the Buk system delivery.
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Russia, effectively sidelined by the probe, has contested the findings, calling them biased. The Russian military has maintained that the videos showing the Buk missile being moved through Ukraine have been fabricated, while accusing the Ukrainian forces of carrying out the ill-fated missile launch. Moscow has repeatedly offered help and demonstrated evidence, provided radar data and declassified military information on the Buk missile, but the data has been either ignored or deemed insufficient.
Meanwhile, the Buk manufacturer Almaz Antey carried out two full-scale experiments to reconstruct the MH17 crash. It said the data demonstrated that the missile that downed the plane was not used by Russia and was instead an older model fired from a Ukraine-controlled area. The Dutch investigators, however, were reluctant to scrutinize that evidence, brushing away Almaz Antey’s findings.
What Malaysia doubts
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Wednesday said he was dismayed that those responsible for the downing have still not been found five years after the tragedy.
“We are sad as it was something done on purpose, but we do not know who launched the rocket. We know it was a rocket but we have yet to know who did it,” he told the media.
He added that Malaysia was not at all convinced by the JIT’s findings regarding Russia’s alleged role and demanded that the investigators provide proof that the Russians were behind the shooting.
What Russia denies
Moscow has outright denied its involvement in the downing of flight MH17, while pointing out that the JIT probe has been designed to squarely pin the blame on Russia.
“The Dutch authorities increasingly exploit the feelings and grief of the relatives of those who died aboard flight MH17. [They] use their associations as a kind of a battering-ram to din the idea of Russia’s complicity into the ears of the global community,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently denied any guilt on behalf of Russia in the MH17 tragedy, calling the JIT findings “no proof at all” and saying that Moscow’s evidence has been ignored.
“Unfortunately nobody wants to listen to us. As long as we don’t have real dialogue, we won’t find the right answers to the questions about this tragedy and the deaths of people. We certainly mourn them and we believe such acts are intolerable.”
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