THE HAGUE, March 8. /TASS/. The Joint Investigative Team (JIT), which probes the downing of the MH17 flight in Ukraine, considered a possibility of the breach of Russia’s sovereignty through the approach to witnesses, according to the document published on Saturday by Bonanza Media, a platform for independent journalists.
The 13-page minutes of the JIT field office meeting in the Dutch city of Driebergen on January 25, 2018 says that representatives of the Netherlands Public Prosecution Service "put forward the question about the breach of Russia’s sovereignty through the approach of witnesses who most probably reside in the RF [the Russian Federation - TASS], without informing the RF authorities."
In response, the Belgian representative stated that it "is not a problem for Belgium." The Ukrainian representative added that he "doesn’t see an issue with that but he has to discuss this point first." Next, the discussion focuses on "luring the witness" and then on "interviewing suspects in RF, without the authorities being informed and involved."
"The newest document gives you an insight in how they think and how the field office of the JIT with the countries communicate together and what keeps them busy. I think it was a very interesting insight look. And what they have and what they do not have," Max van der Werff, an independent journalist and a founder of Bonanza Media, said in an interview with TASS.
"Maybe, it is even a little bit funny document. It is funny and sad at the same time. And I think it is an extremely embarrassing document also, so they are going to spin it away like others, [saying] there is no solid information," he added.
"It is all on the record what they say about breaking Russian law by luring witnesses, not informing the Russian Federation. They openly say they do not care about the Russian law. They are ready to break the law to find evidence," he said.
In the meantime, Yana Erlashova, an independent journalist and a co-founder of Bonanza Media, pointed out that the document is interesting from another point of view. For instance, "the Dutch say that they are not happy with Ukrainians because they have not been helpful enough, that the SBU [Ukraine’s Security Service - TASS] is basically doing nothing."
"And at the same time they say that they depend solely on the SBU providing information with witnesses," she added.
"The SBU is the only one that can do investigations [in Ukraine] and there is nobody from the SBU working on the investigation." Max van der Werff added. "And they still do not have enough evidence. How is this possible? I think that the Dutch parliament will ask questions."
"There is another important moment in the document when they discuss radar data speaking about three radar plots," Erlashova went on to say.
"Along with this, they say that they would not study them to avoid confusion. Those [radar plots] could be parts of a missile or even debris of an aircraft. They do not even mention that those radar plots might be military aircraft. They prefer ignoring the issue whatsoever and openly discuss it, saying they should not release that [fact] at all to ‘avoid questions or complot theories in a later stage.’ That is absolutely shocking. It is not clear what the official investigation is busy with," she added.
In the paragraphs about analysis of the radar data received from Russia, the document says that "there is no evidence of data manipulation." Nevertheless, the Dutch investigators suggested that the radar findings should be used in the JIT advantage "by using the media." They also want to push for murder, but not manslaughter, the journalists said.
Malaysian representatives were not present at the meeting and that issue was not even discussed. Malaysia was mentioned once when "luring witnesses" from Russia was touched on.
Other numerous documents
According to the independent journalists, they have other documents, but they will publish later.
"We have a lot of other materials. We are proceeding with our investigation. We are going to make other reports and everything once we have facts checked. We’ll see what they bring up in court, to see what they have. We are pretty much sure that we have a lot of materials to counter," Erlashova said.
Speaking about their goal, van der Werff pointed out that he does want to find out what really happened.
"We want to have the whole story. We want to check all the public evidence and we want to find evidence that is not public," he said. "We are very angry that the Western press and the whole propaganda system are so preoccupied against Russia. It is unfair," he added.
"It would be beautiful," the journalist said when asked if their activity could turn the tide. "It has been proven in history that a few people can make the difference."
MH17 crash and probe
The Boeing-777 passenger plane operated by Malaysian Airlines crashed in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, while en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. A total of 298 people, citizens of 10 countries, were killed in the crash. The parties to the armed conflict in Donbass traded blame over the tragedy.
Despite active combat actions, Kiev did not close airspace over Donbass for international passenger flights. The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was set up to investigate the tragedy, consisting of representatives from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine.
In June 2019, the JIT said it had identified four individuals suspected of being involved in the MH17 crash. They are three Russian nationals Igor Girkin, also known under the nickname of Strelkov, Sergei Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov and a Ukrainian national, Leonid Kharchenko. The trial is scheduled to begin in the Netherlands on March 9. Russia’s authorities have repeatedly voiced doubt over the JIT’s findings, pointing to the lack of evidence and its reluctance to take into account Moscow’s conclusions made during the investigation.