Key points of Russian position on flight MH17

Ambassador's view
Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011). Follow him on Twitter @Amb_Yakovenko
© Stringer
We express our deepest condolences to the relatives of all 283 passengers and 15 crewmembers – victims of the dreadful tragedy, the downing of MH17 one year ago.
  • We condemn the destruction of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 by unidentified individuals and confirm our position in favor of the inevitability of punishment for having committed this criminal act once the investigation is completed.
  • We consider the issue of establishing an international tribunal concerning the MH17 catastrophe to be premature and counterproductive. We are convinced that UNSC Resolution 2166 remains the only basis – acceptable to all – for international cooperation in the interests of an independent and transparent investigation of downing the Malaysian airliner. We call for a return to the legal framework of this resolution and for the full implementation of the investigation mechanisms provided for in this document.
  • Russia is interested in a thorough and objective international investigation of the catastrophe of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. We do not see this happening at the moment. This is due in part to the fact that Russia has been barred from any substantive participation in the investigation (the involvement of the Russian representative has been purely nominal and has not resulted in his opinion, and the data presented by Russia, being taken into account). Russia has been intentionally excluded from required objective standards of ‘transparency’ by those who conducted the investigation – for example, Russian specialists were essentially denied full and equitable access to the materials which were in the possession of the Joint Investigation Team. The Ukrainian side has refused, up to this moment, to make public the recording of the air-traffic controllers’ radio exchange with the pilots of flight MH17.
  • Russia has been insisting on making the investigation transparent to the fullest possible degree, first of all, with respect to the UN Security Council. We have proposed discussing the course of the investigation in the Council, so as to find answers to the most obvious questions (a list of such questions was distributed by Russia to the council in 2014). There has been no reaction to these proposals from members of the council.
  • We are forced to conclude that UNSC Resolution 2166, which set out clear and professionally-founded requirements for investigating the MH17 catastrophe, has not been implemented.
  • There are many serious questions concerning the organization and conduct of the investigation. Russia’s numerous calls for making use of the UN Security Council to monitor the implementation of UNSC Resolution 2166 have been consistently ignored. The investigation is being conducted without due observance of international aviation standards and without recognition of the key role of ICAO in such matters.
  • We are surprised by the fact that the members of the Joint Investigation Team have not undertaken preparatory work on the basis of UNSC Resolution 2166 and have not discussed with the council their plan of further actions. Instead, they have tabled a far-reaching draft resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. UNSC Resolution 2166 does not qualify the downing of the plane as a threat to international peace and security. The tragedy, though horrifying and tragic, was an isolated act of a criminal nature. Thus a trial could be organized on the basis of national, international or mixed law. In any case, this matter does not fall within the Security Council's purview.
  • Russia is surprised by the proposal of adopting – literally within a number of days – such a fundamental decision, without even discussing any other possible options.
  • Despite the provisions of UNSC Resolution 2166, the UN secretary-general has not identified and submitted to the council possible options for United Nations support to the investigation.
  • Since the day of the disaster we have been witnessing a powerful information attack on our country in international media and fora (including the UNSC). It has been groundlessly claimed that Russia or "separatists controlled by Russia" were responsible for the downing of flight MH17. Such irresponsible and unproven statements are being issued up to this moment. Their aim is to negatively influence the media background surrounding the investigation. We consider such statements and unfounded accusations as an attempt to dissimulate the true facts concerning the catastrophe and to cover up the identities of the true perpetrators of the crime.
  • UNSC practice shows that the mere principle of establishing international judicial mechanisms by a decision of the Council has become a subject of serious and robust criticism by many countries and the international legal expert community. The practice of the existing international tribunals – the ICTY (former Yugoslavia) and ICTR (Rwanda) – confirm the validity of such skepticism. The activities of these two judicial organs are costly, inefficient and slow. Their decisions are highly politicized. They have not been able to finish their work – for over two decades – with acceptable results.
  • Up to this moment there has been no precedent in creating an international tribunal for bringing to justice those who were accused of perpetrating an act of violence against a civilian airliner: not when a Russian airliner belonging to the Sibir air company was shot down in 2001 by Ukrainian armed forces over the Black Sea; not when the American Navy destroyed Iran Air flight IR655 over the Persian Gulf on July 3, 1988; not after Pan American flight PA103 was blown up as a result of a terrorist act over Lockerbie in 1988, or Cubana de Aviacion flight CU455 over Barbados in 1976; not after Libyan Arab Airlines flight LN114 was shot down as a result of Israeli Air Force action in 1973. No international tribunals were created in other similar circumstances.
  • The haste in pushing the adoption of a resolution and its extended scope of reference seem to indicate that the UN Security Council is being used to find a pretext for using the MH17 tragedy to organize a ‘trial’ over Russia on the Ukrainian dossier.
  • In view of the above, Russia will not engage in textual work on the draft resolution on the establishment of an international tribunal or its proposed draft charter. At the same time we hope that our partners will understand our position and support completion of the investigation in a transparent manner which would provide a solid basis for a subsequent identification of a suitable trial formula.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.