MOSCOW – Russian officials have decried the interim results of an international investigation that found that the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet that crashed in eastern Ukraine in July 2014 was shot down by an antiaircraft missile transported from Russia and fired from rebel-controlled territory in Ukraine.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the findings, released on September 28, showed the probe was “biased and politically motivated."
She suggested that Ukraine had been allowed to forge evidence, while the manufacturer of the Buk antiaircraft missile, Almaz Antey, alleged that investigators ignored information they had shared.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over Ukrainian territory on July 17, 2014, while flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. All 298 passengers and crew on board perished.
The Joint Investigation Team said that MH17 was shot down by a Buk missile fired from rebel-controlled Ukraine. Investigators did not blame Russia directly but said that the Buk was transported from Russia into Ukraine and later smuggled back.
In comments to Russian news agencies, Major General Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, also criticized the findings, claiming they were based on two sources: the Internet and the Ukrainian security services.
Konashenkov denied that a missile system crossed the border between Ukraine and Russia.
Russian officials and state media have made strenuous efforts to lay the blame on Kyiv, at various times suggesting that the passenger plane was shot down by a Ukrainian fighter jet or by a Buk missile launcher in the hands of Ukrainian forces.
The Joint Investigation Team said it had ruled out all other explanations for MH17’s crash.
“Arbitrarily assigning blame and dreaming up the desired results has become the norm for our Western colleagues,” Zakharova said in comments published on the Foreign Ministry website.
Zakharova accused the Joint Investigation Team of “marginalizing Moscow from full-fledged participation in the investigative process, relegating our efforts to a minor role.”
“It sounds like a bad joke, but at the same time they made Ukraine a full member of the JIT, giving it the opportunity to forge evidence and turn the case to its advantage," she said.
On September 26, just two days before interim findings of the international investigation, Russia’s Defense Ministry released what it called new radar data showing that no missile could have been fired from rebel-held territory.
Just before the JIT findings were made public, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told news agencies that Defense Ministry radar data showed “unequivocally” that no missile was fired in rebel-controlled Ukraine.
“There are undeniable facts. In the given case, it is important to make conclusions based on the latest information that has been published, and specifically the primary radar data that identified all flying objects that could have started or been located in the air in the territory controlled by the rebels,” he was quoted as saying by Interfax.
In eastern Ukraine, parts of which the separatists call the Donetsk People’s Republic, rebel Eduard Basurin told Interfax that his forces had "no such air-defense systems" and could not have downed MH17.