The Russian Public Prosecutor’s Office has slammed the Joint Investigative Team (JIT) led by the Netherlands for ignoring huge amounts of data transferred by Moscow to Amsterdam prosecutors about the MH17 crash in Ukraine in 2014. According to them, this situation clearly demonstrates the JITs attitude towards Russia.
"Most of the data was ignored by the JIT, whose members demonstrated their selective approach towards evidence in the case from the very beginning, as well as clearly biased attitude towards Russia and its attempts to uncover the true cause of the aviation tragedy", a statement by the Public Prosecutor’s Office reads.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office also noted that JIT refused to pass along case materials on three Russian citizens, accused by the team of being responsible for the jet's crash, and added that this decision can't be appealed in a national court. The first hearing against the three Russians and one Ukrainian citizen in the case will take place in The Hague on 9 March despite concerns about the coronavirus outbreak in the country. Officials from the Prosecutor Office's clarified that Russia is not taking part in this trial and its decisions have no legal power in the country.
Earlier, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused the Netherlands of trying to pressure the court in The Hague ahead of the MH17 hearing.
"I'd like to comment on the actions by Netherlands' authorities, which clearly indicate of their attempts to pressure the court in The Hague. We see how an information campaign in the Netherlands is gaining pace ahead of the court hearing on 9 March regarding the MH17 crash", she stated.
Zakharova further clarified that the pressure campaign was initiated by the Dutch Prosecution Service, which is leading the JIT. According to her, the campaign aims to form a specific public opinion on the subject and to possibly secure the "so-called success" of the six-year-long investigation.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, carrying 298 people on board, was shot down on 17 July 2014 as it was flying over eastern Ukraine, which was engulfed in a military conflict between the Ukrainian Army and the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR). Following the crash, Ukraine delegated the investigation into the incident to the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) in the Netherlands, which lost 193 citizens in the incident.
The DSB concluded that the plane was downed by a 9N314M missile fired by a Soviet-made Buk 9M38-series air defence system, but failed to specify the launch site. Later, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) made up of the Netherlands, Belgium, Ukraine, Australia, and Malaysia was formed to conduct a criminal investigation into the case and to determine who was responsible for the tragedy. However, Russia, which assisted the DSB investigation, was left out of the group, despite the fact that it was ready to provide useful data on the incident.
Western governments were quick to accuse the Donetsk People’s Republic of shooting down the plane even before the investigators drafted preliminary reports on the cause of the crash, claiming that Russia had fostered the tragedy by allegedly providing weaponry to DPR forces.
Moscow has repeatedly denied involvement in the incident and called for an unbiased investigation to be conducted. In addition, Russia provided vast amounts of data such as radar feeds from the area of the crash and info on the Buk 9M38-series air defence system showing that it couldn't have been used to down the MH17 Boeing 777. However, the JIT ignored most of the information.
In 2018, the JIT released a report claiming that the missile that shot down MH17 was launched by DPR forces and that the Buk launcher had been delivered from Russia. Moscow stated that it couldn’t accept the results of the investigation, slamming it as politically motivated and biased, pointing out that the investigative team had based its accusations on unverified social media photos and videos, as well as assertions by the Ukrainian government. The prime minister of Malaysia, which lost 43 people in the tragedy, was also disappointed by the results of the investigation, which he called "politicised".
In the final report, published on 18 June 2019, the JIT accused three Russians and one Ukrainian of being responsible for the jet's crash, issuing international arrest warrants for them. Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the report for failing to address "a lot of questions" that were left unanswered, such as why Ukraine had allowed the plane to fly over an active war zone in the first place. The president also slammed the JIT for failing to consider Russia's account of events, arguing that they were simply "appointing perpetrators" instead of trying to establish what actually happened on the day of the crash.