Kremlin denies claims Putin was involved in downing MH17
MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Kremlin on Thursday dismissed findings by international prosecutors investigating the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) and said they found “strong evidence” of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s involvement in the incident.
Prosecutors in The Hague said on Wednesday they had found “strong evidence” that Putin authorized the use of Russian BUK missile systems that shot down the plane over eastern Ukraine in 2014.
In Moscow’s initial reaction to her allegation, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia “cannot accept” the results of the probe because it is not participating in the process. He also said investigators had not publicly presented any substantiated evidence.
MH17 was shot down by a Russian BUK missile system while flying over eastern Ukraine from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 passengers and crew, including 196 Dutch nationals.
At the time, Russian-backed separatists were fighting Ukrainian forces for control of the eastern Donbass region.
Prosecutors cited wiretapped phone calls for their findings, but said evidence of direct involvement by Putin — or other Russian officials — was not conclusive enough to pursue a criminal conviction and halted their investigation.
Russia has repeatedly denied state involvement in the downing of MH17. Peskov on Thursday dismissed the evidence presented by investigators.
“We know that a recording of an alleged telephone conversation has been released … in which not a single word is mentioned about weapons. Even assuming this conversation is real… there’s not a word about guns. Nobody has published anything else, so it’s impossible to say anything,” Peskov told reporters.
Asked specifically about the allegation that Putin authorized the delivery of BUK missile systems to pro-Moscow separatists in Ukraine, Peskov said: “Russia did not participate in this investigation, so we cannot accept these results – especially as there is no basis for them.” these statements have been made public.”
After the plane was destroyed, the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Ukraine and Malaysia deployed a joint investigative team to identify those responsible and collect evidence for prosecution.
In November, a Dutch court convicted two former Russian intelligence agents and a Ukrainian separatist leader of murder for helping organize the missile system that shot down the plane. The men, who were tried in absentia, remain at large.
(Reported by Reuters; Edited by Gareth Jones)