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15 Sep, 2016 01:21

Russian arms producer challenges media criticism of its MH17 crash inquiry – report

Russian arms producer Almaz-Antey says Western media distorted, mixed up and unduly rejected the conclusions of its investigation into the the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash in 2014, according to a document obtained by a Russian media outlet.

Russia’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper obtained an alleged statement from Almaz Antey, the producer of the BUK air defense system, believed to have been used to down the plane. The document accused Western media, including British citizen-journalist outfit Bellingcat, of trying to manipulate the public opinion and mixing up facts to discredit Almaz Antey’s investigation.

Firstly, the Russian company noted that as means of “discreet propaganda” Western outlets widely circulated pictures of “new Russian missiles” of type 9М317 during their coverage of the ongoing probe into the tragedy. “One of the shows on the RTL channel showed a Russian … anti-aircraft missile system 'Buk M1-2', with a complete set of four 9M317 missiles,” the document says. According to Almaz-Antey, that was deliberately done to imply that it could only be Russia, which brought down the plane, since the latest weapon was not supplied to other states.

The Dutch Safety Board (DSB) eventually concluded last October that the plane had indeed been shot down by a Russian-made BUK system – but with an older 9M38M missile series and 9N314M warhead.

Almaz-Antey carried out its own experiments last year, after which it said the weapon fragments found on the wreckage of MH17 came from an older rocket of type 9M38 with a 9N314 warhead. This weapon had been decommissioned by Russian forces, but is still in the arsenal of the Ukrainian Army.

In particular, the type of the missile led Bellingcat to accuse Almaz-Antey of contradicting itself. In its report, the outlet published a picture from one of the presentations by the BUK manufacturer, where it referred to the missile of type 9M38(M1) and the 9N314(M) warhead. Almaz-Antey denied any controversy here, saying that at that moment the company was still elaborating which exact modification of the old 9M38 missile and 9N314 warhead type exactly hit MH17.

Bellingcat also claimed that older versions of missiles, such as 9M38 had been spotted during a V-Day parade in the Russia city of Chita, implying that those are still in service in Russia. However, as Almaz-Antey noted, they were just replicas, since no “real missiles” are loaded “during public events” in Russia.

Another key claim by Bellingcat was that Almaz-Antey’s own presentation allegedly proved that the missile was launched form the area controlled by the anti-government forces in eastern Ukraine. However the Russian company’s response noted the issue “was taken out of context” and that Almaz-Antey - quite to the contrary - rejected that theory based on the findings of its own experiments.

The allegations come ahead of a final report produced by the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT), to be released on September 28. It is expected to name those responsible for the downing of the Malaysian Boeing.

The plane crashed in eastern Ukraine en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 people on board.