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West demands from Russia to plead guilty in MH17 crash regardless of evidence, says Lavrov

The acting foreign minister pointed out that Moscow would prefer to have it clear about the MH17 crash and recalled that Russia was a co-author of the resolution passed by the UN Security Council

MOSCOW, January 17. /TASS/. Russia’s Acting Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said indignantly that in response to Russia’s willingness to cooperate in the investigation into the crash of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, the West demands to admit the guilt.

"When the Dutch investigation, in spite of the fact we have provided them with everything we can in response to their requests, make public statements and when my counterpart - the foreign minister - dares to claim that Russia has not cooperated with the investigation, and when we hand over everything we have and ask what are the grounds for such statements, do you know what the answer is? ‘Russia does not cooperate because Russia has failed to admit its guilt’," Lavrov said at a Friday press conference on summing up the results of Russian diplomacy in 2019.

The acting foreign minister pointed out that Moscow would prefer to have it clear about the MH17 crash. He recalled that Russia was a co-author of the resolution passed by the United Nations Security Council. The resolution contains the provisions calling to ensure security of the investigation in strict compliance with requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Lavrov did not elaborate on any non-compliance with the requirements, but claimed that the facts had taken place.

"Among other things, the resolution stipulated that those engaged in the investigation should regularly report to the UN Security Council. There has not been a single report yet," he noted.

Apart from that, Lavrov recalled that after the crash a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was established, comprising Ukraine, Australia, the Netherlands and Belgium.

"Actually, Malaysia has not been invited even though its Boeing was shot down. It was invited to join six months later, not in order to participate in the criminal investigation but to participate in the technical probe," the acting foreign minister said.

"By the way, if they had had any claims against us, they could have asked us to join the investigation team. We were not expected there, we were not wanted, but we did cooperate actively," he said.

Any information they applied for has been submitted, he said.

"We even field tested presentations. Almaz-Antei that manufactures those Buk missile systems, one of which allegedly brought down that plane, showed how it could have happened in real life, in a real situation," Lavrov explained. "They [Almaz-Antei] provided radar data, moreover primary radar data. The answer to our question where the Ukrainian radar data are was odd, ‘They have none whatsoever.’ Afterwards, someone said that the radars had accidentally switched off. Imagine all the radars in Ukraine that were monitoring that section of airspace somehow switched off for a while!"

Lavrov complained that the question why Kiev was unable to provide the records of air traffic controllers’ conversations on that day had been left unanswered.

"To my mind, five years after the crash either Bellingcat, or someone else with a similar reputation, suddenly published certain phone records between alleged representatives of Russia and Donbass. They had been searching for those records for five years. As for the Ukrainian air traffic controllers, we do not have to search for anything. These records should be automatically handed over to the investigation team. But they do not want to," Lavrov said indignantly, underlining that the US satellite data had not been provided either.

Nevertheless, the Russian Foreign Ministry is aware that there is an agreement between the four states, which initially joined the MH17 investigation team, on sharing the information coming from external sources.

"They agreed in advance that any information coming from outside should be approved by all the four members of the team, including Ukraine. When Dutch lawmakers asked the government a question of why the investigation does not ask Ukraine why its airspace had not been closed, the Dutch government keeps mum. You see there are still multiple questions," Lavrov added.

In conclusion, the acting Russian foreign minister stressed that Russia had agreed to hold consultations with Australia and the Netherlands under the condition that Russia would consider all the issues they are concerned about, but would prefer to discuss the above mentioned questions with its counterparts.

"They shy away from that and attempt to package it like ‘the probe is not over yet, but you are guilty, so let’s start talking about compensations’," he said.

"Once they touch upon this issue, or the Skripals, or the issue of whosoever used chemical weapons in Syria by exclusively using the logic of ‘highly likely’, you know that is the same story when instead of international law some rules are invented, which you yourself find comfortable and which make you yourself believe in that."

MH17 flight crash

A passenger Boeing-777 of the Malaysia Airlines (flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur) was shot out of the sky over Ukraine’s Donetsk Region on July 17, 2014. A total of 298 people - citizens of 10 countries - died in the disaster. Although hostilities were underway on the ground at the moment, Kiev failed to close Donbass airspace to international passenger flights.

A Joint Investigation Team consisting of Australian, Belgian, Malaysian, Dutch and Ukrainian officials was established. In June 2019, the JIT said it had identified four suspects in the crash, including three Russians - Igor Girkin (also known under the nickname Strelkov), Sergei Dubinsky, and Oleg Pulatov. The fourth suspect is Ukrainian citizen Leonid Kharchenko. Their trial is scheduled to begin on March 9, 2020.