Moscow shared MH17 radar images, Dutch probe ignored evidence, Russia tells victims’ relatives
Oleg Storchevoy, the deputy head of Rosaviatsia, the agency representing Russia in the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash investigation, has personally addressed the relatives of the victims in a lengthy letter.
"I would like to emphasize that Russia is strongly committed to establishing the actual cause of the crash, and has consistently done everything in its power to help find out the truth, both throughout the course of the technical investigation and following its official completion," he said.
Desperate for answers that would shed the light on who fired the BUK missile that allegedly hit the passenger plane on July 17, 2014, and dissatisfied with the slow-moving Dutch probe, the relatives have turned to the heads of several states, including Russia’s. On January 22, they sent a letter to Putin, asking about the primary data from radars and satellites, which they think is crucial.
"We did not impose any conditions or restrictions regarding further use and disclosure of radar data, records of phone conversations and other data we submitted to the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) at its request. Moreover, Russia has stored all that data to this day, and is willing to provide it once again to the relevant authorities," said Storchevoy.
In mid-January, the relatives wrote to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, demanding a global campaign to obtain radar images that could help identify those responsible for the death of their loved ones.
“We can’t accept that people have refused to provide crucial information,” they wrote.
‘Only radar data available is Russia’s’
While the Russian authorities were not involved in controlling the fatal flight, they still soon became de-facto participants of the investigation due to the unique information obtained from radars in Rostov-on-Don, a Russian city not far from the Ukrainian border.
"I would like to stress that Russia disclosed all of its available satellite data in the days immediately following the crash," said Storchevoy.
Rosaviatsia’s deputy head stressed that the Russian radar data was the only such data available to the Dutch investigators, as it appeared that Ukraine’s radar stations “for unknown reasons” were not functioning on July 17. Neither did Ukrainian authorities have any backup system to maintain flight safety in the military zone.
Dutch report ignored Russia’s data
Having provided the radar data and phone records requested by the Dutch, Russia has never prohibited the Netherlands from either sharing with other states or publishing the information generally, Storchevoy said.
However, this evidence appears not to have been reflected in the Dutch Safety Board’s (DSB) final report, released in October.
Russia is still ready to provide the same data, which it collects in video files in accordance with domestic regulations, to any authorized parties.
Moscow has also published the satellite images from July 2014 that showed Ukrainian BUK missile systems maneuvering in the conflict zone close to the site of the crash. It had handed the same images over to the DSB. However, this evidence has been ignored as well.
"This data confirms, among other things, that there was movement and increased activity by Ukrainian Buk surface-to-air missile systems observed within the conflict area in Eastern Ukraine one day ahead of the tragedy," Storchevoy mentioned.
"Russia shared that information with the Dutch Safety Board, but once its final report was released, it turned out the DSB had chosen not to consider Russian satellite data or even include them in the report," he added.
Netherlands drags out probe, delays final report
Speaking of Russia’s efforts, the Rosaviatsia officials accused the DSB of leaving a number of important questions unanswered, of distorting the facts and of deliberately carrying out the probe at a sluggish pace.
Storchevoy has called on Ukraine and the US to provide the information they have. He said Washington “must” share satellite images that it claims it has, while Kiev should either share its radar data or prove that it doesn’t have it.
"As far as the quality of the technical inquiry is concerned, I must point out that, in a totally inexplicable fashion, its final report leaves the most important question unanswered: How far is Ukraine responsible for failing to close its airspace? The report is extremely vague regarding the responsibility of the government in Kiev," Storchevoy said.
Russia extremely interested in truth
In his address to the relatives of Dutch victims, Storchevoy has stressed Russia’s commitment to uncover the truth. Even after the end of the official probe, he said, Moscow is still going out of its way to find answers to major questions.
Moscow provided data from all of its radars that recorded the MH17 flight to the Dutch Safety Board in August 2014, shortly after the catastrophe, Storchevoy said.
Aside from that, Almaz-Antey, the manufacturers of the 9N314M BUK missile that the investigation said downed the plane, have staged two real-life tests. They involved decommissioned aircraft and BUK anti-aircraft missiles to verify whether missile systems currently deployed by Russian troops could have been involved in the downing of the Malaysian Airlines aircraft.
However, the results of these tests have also been ignored, as has Russia’s invitation to the Dutch investigators to participate.
Storchevoy has urged the relatives of the MH17 victims to not give up on their efforts to dig out the truth and to demand maximum transparency from both Dutch authorities and their partners in the probe.
"Russia has repeatedly pointed out that the Dutch technical investigation was performed in an extremely nontransparent and biased manner. We support you in your efforts to get answers to the numerous questions that remain unanswered," he said.
The Netherlands is finalizing its second, criminal investigation into the MH17 incident, which is likely to point fingers at specific suspects. The crash killed nearly 300 passengers and crew members on July 17, 2014 in the Donetsk Region of Eastern Ukraine. A majority of those killed in the crash were Dutch citizens.
Rather than pointing fingers, Storchevoy says it would be better for the DSB to answer questions regarding why the investigation took so long and why they hid certain pieces of information.
"The Dutch authorities should explain why they distorted facts and concealed data, and why they ignored important data provided by Russia. The DSB should explain why its final report distorted data about missile fragments and places where they were found, why it failed to thoroughly examine penetration holes on the aircraft, why it misrepresented the probable location from which the missile was launched, and many other discrepancies in the final report," Storchevoy concluded.