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Russian Defense Ministry says Donbass militants did not have access to Buk missile system

The ministry's spokesman reminded that the Ukrainian officials had stated it

MOSCOW, September 17. /TASS/. Ukrainian officials have proven themselves that fighters from the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics could not have accessed the Buk missile system, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov informed journalists.

"Of course, we do not have any documents proving that the fighters have seized the Buk [systems] or its missiles. I would like to remind everyone that Ukrainian officials have stated and said several times that the fighters did not access any missile complex. This is why I think that Ukraine itself has disproven this possibility," Konashenkov said.

The Boeing-777 passenger plane operated by Malaysian Airlines crashed on July 17, 2014, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in the east of the Donetsk region. As a result, 298 people, citizens of 10 states, were killed in the crash. The parties to the armed conflict in Donbass accused each other of being complicit in the tragedy.

On May 24, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), consisting of representatives from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine, released its update on the criminal investigation into the MH17 crash. According to the JIT, "the BUK-TELAR that was used to down MH17, originates from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile brigade (hereinafter 53rd brigade), a unit of the Russian army from Kursk in the Russian Federation."

Russia’s Defense Ministry rejected all the accusations saying that none of the Russian Army’s air defense missile systems had ever crossed the border between Russia and Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the investigation was reminiscent of the Skripal case as there was no evidence.

Nevertheless, on May 25, Australia and the Netherlands issued a statement saying that they "hold Russia responsible for its part in the downing of flight MH17." "The Netherlands and Australia are now convinced that Russia is responsible for the deployment of the Buk installation that was used to down MH17. The government is now taking the next step by formally holding Russia accountable," the statement reads.