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18 Feb, 2017 20:38

MH17 crash: Russia ready to help Netherlands decode 'most detailed' raw radar data

MH17 crash: Russia ready to help Netherlands decode 'most detailed' raw radar data

Moscow has offered its assistance in decoding radar data it previously shared with the Dutch commission investigating the crash of a Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine. The material was provided "raw" to the investigators ensuring it's "most detailed."

"The radar data was given to the Dutch in the most detailed form – raw – which automatically indicates its authenticity and exclusivity," the Russian aviation regulator Rosaviatsiya said in a statement published on Saturday.

It referred to the "primary data" which was shared with the Netherlands in October 2016. Russia's air transport agency said, "the factual information clearly describes the actual air traffic situation at the time of the MH17 tragedy."

Moscow's offer comes after the Dutch prosecutor’s office said earlier this week that they could not read the raw radar data shared by the Russians, as it was presented in an "unusual format" as opposed to the "standard" ASTERIX format. International air traffic control agencies often use the ASTERIX format developed in Europe, prosecutors said.

Rosaviatsiya argued the data it shared with the Netherlands was valuable primarily because it was raw. When converted into the ASTERIX format, it would be much less detailed, the agency said.

Unlike the raw radar data, which "consists of images circulating within the radar itself," the "standard" ASTERIX format "involves the transfer of data in a processed form, which, in fact, turns it into secondary information that does not allow us to see even 25 percent of what the primary data from the radar shows," the agency stated.

It is common international practice for investigators of aircraft accidents to invite and engage professionals working with specific equipment to help them in their inquiries, the Russian regulator pointed out adding that Moscow is ready to assist the Netherlands in the decoding process if needed.

"Despite Russia being perplexed with the fact that it has taken the Netherlands three months to recognize the so-called technical snag [inability to decode raw radar data], Russia is at any time ready to grant international investigators the assistance of professional developers who are familiar with the system of decrypting information from the radar," Rosaviatsiya said.

The Dutch prosecutor's office earlier shared plans to submit an additional request for legal assistance with the Russian authorities.

Last fall, a Russian radar producer reportedly discovered radar equipment which had been replaced during scheduled maintenance shortly after the MH17 tragedy, and which still held primary data from the day of the crash. These records were handed over to Dutch prosecutors.

An earlier September 2016 report by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), comprising aviation experts and investigators from the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, Malaysia and Ukraine, determined that the MH17 flight was shot down by a Buk missile from a village controlled by Ukraine’s rebels at the time.

It alleged the missile was brought onto Ukrainian territory from Russia and returned after its launch. Moscow has repeatedly disputed the findings, criticizing the inquiry as being politically motivated and biased towards Ukraine.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 with 298 people on board was shot down over eastern Ukraine in July 2014, amid an armed conflict between the Ukrainian military and paramilitary forces, and rebels who rejected the armed coup in Kiev earlier that year.