Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has called the JIT's latest claims in the MH17 case politically motivated and unproven.
"We are very unhappy, because from the very beginning it was a political issue on how to accuse Russia of wrongdoing," Mahathir said, speaking to reporters on Thursday, according to Reuters.
A day earlier, the Joint Investigative Committee (JIT) announced that four suspects, Russians Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky, and Oleg Pulato and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, would be issued international arrest warrants on charges of murder, with a trial into the MH17 case set to begin in the Netherlands in March 2020.
Flight MH17 was shot down over civil war-hit eastern Ukraine by a surface-to-air missile on 17 July 2014, with all 298 passengers and crew on board, predominantly Dutch and Malaysian nationals, killed.
The JIT accuses the men of delivering the missile system to Ukraine from a Russian anti-aircraft missile brigade stationed in the city of Kursk, not far from the Ukrainian border. Russia has categorically denied claims that it was in any way involved in the tragedy.
"Even before they examine (the debris), they already said Russia. And now they said they have proof. It is very difficult for us to accept that," Mahathir said. "It is a ridiculous thing," Mahathir added. "As far as we are concerned we want proof of guilt. So far there is no proof. Only hearsay," he stressed.
Malaysian authorities have repeatedly complained of being effectively excluded from the investigation into the MH17 case, with the country's investigators reportedly barred from studying the airliner's black box flight recorder and other important data, despite the fact that over three dozen of the 298 passengers and crew who died in the incident were Malaysian nationals.
'Absolutely Unsubstantiated' Claims
Almost immediately after the MH17 crash and before a formal investigation was launched, the US and many of its European allies accused Russia of responsibility for the tragedy. The Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team invited Belgium, Australia, and Ukraine to join the probe, with Malaysia invited to join in late 2014, and Russia barred from the inquiry despite repeated offers to help.
Russia subsequently conducted its own probe into the disaster, with its investigation including extensive studies of forensic evidence, the unprecedented declassification of previously secret information about advanced military hardware, and a complex experiment by defence concern Almaz-Antey, maker of the Buk type air defence missile thought to have shot down the passenger jet.
Based on these studies, Russian investigators concluded that an older variant of the missile built in 1986 and belonging to Ukraine downed the aircraft, with Russia fully retiring its older stocks of Buk missiles during a broader campaign to modernise the Russian army.
The Russian side has repeatedly attempted to provide Dutch investigators with its evidence, but JIT has shown no interest in the Russian information. In late 2016, Russia sent JIT raw, unprocessed primary radar data containing evidence about the trajectory of the missile which shot down Flight MH17. JIT first complained that it could not decrypt the data, but after Russia said that it would be ready to help investigators decode it, questioned its accuracy and declined to take it into consideration. JIT's own investigation and the presentations of its findings did not provide any concrete evidence demonstrating Russia's guilt, instead citing 'classified information' which Dutch and US authorities have said they could not divulge.
On Wednesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed the JIT's latest claims in the MH17 case as "absolutely unsubstantiated," saying that the charges were not based on evidence, and aimed only "at discrediting Russia in the eyes of the international community."