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Malaysian minister rejects claims of Russia’s influence over MH17 issue

Bellingcat has criticized Malaysia for being the only country that refused to support investigators' findings in full

MOSCOW, October 14. /TASS/. Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke has denied allegations that Russian special services influenced the country’s position on the 2014 downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in the Ukrainian airspace.

"I categorically and strongly deny the wild accusations against us," the Malaysiakini news portal quoted him as saying. "I have never been in contact with the Russians. My comments are based on the advice of our Ministry of Foreign Affairs."

Malaysia Airlines’ Boeing 777 performing flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed in the east of the war-torn Donetsk region of Ukraine on July 17, 2014, in the zone of active fighting. 283 passengers and 15 crew members - citizens of 10 states, were killed in the crash. The Kiev government kept open an international flightpath over the armed conflict zone where several aircraft had already been shot down there with the aid of antiaircraft weapons.

On May 24, 2018, experts of the Joint Investigative Team (JIT), comprising Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, The Netherlands and Ukraine, published an interim report where they alleged that the flight was downed by a missile launched from an anti-aircraft system. The report also claim that the mount had arrived from the 53rd Antiaircraft Brigade deployed near the southwestern Russian city of Kursk.

Russia has repeatedly turned down all the charges put forward by the JIT. The Defense Ministry said not a single air defense complex had ever crossed the Russian-Ukrainian border. Russian experts also said they had managed to identify the missile that had downed the jet. They said Soviet Armed Forces had delivered it to the territory of Ukraine in 1986, well before the disintegration of the USSR, and it never returned to Russia after that.

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."

On May 31, Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke said there was no conclusive proof of Russia’s responsibility for the crash.

"There is no conclusive evidence to point at Russia under the JIT [Joint Investigative Team] evidence," he said when a reporter asked him about the JIT findings. "But who's responsible - you can't just pinpoint at Russia," he went on, adding that any further actions would be based "on conclusive evidence."

Later, UK-based activist group Bellingcat described the minister’s stance as self-contradictory and criticized Malaysia for being the only country that refused to support JIT findings in full. Besides, Bellingcat claimed that some Malaysian officials could be under influence of Russian special services.