Malaysia has accepted the Dutch report that a ‘Russian-made’ missile shot down its civilian airliner MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, but has yet to see evidence it was fired by Russia, said Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
“They are accusing Russia but where is the evidence?” Mahathir told reporters at the Japanese Foreign Correspondents Club (FCCJ) in Tokyo on Thursday.
“You need strong evidence to show it was fired by the Russians,” the prime minister went on, according to the Malaysian state news agency Bernama. “It could be by the rebels in Ukraine; it could be Ukrainian government because they too have the same missile.”
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014 – amid heavy fighting between residents of two eastern regions who rejected the February coup in Kiev and troops dispatched by the Western-backed government to suppress them.
All 283 passengers and 15 crew members on board the Boeing-777 were killed. Kiev immediately blamed Russia for the incident, and most Western media uncritically agreed.
Mahathir was skeptical that anyone involved with the Russian military could have launched the missile that struck the plane, however, arguing that it would have been clear to professionals that the target was a civilian airliner.
“I don’t think a very highly disciplined party is responsible for launching the missile,” he said.
The Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT), whose report last year blamed Moscow for shooting down MH17, barred Russia from participating in the investigation, but involved the government of Ukraine. Although Malaysia is also a member of JIT, Mahathir revealed that his country’s officials have been blocked from examining the plane’s flight recorders.
“For some reason, Malaysia was not allowed to check the black box to see what happened,” he said. “We don’t know why we are excluded from the examination but from the very beginning, we see too much politics in it.”
The idea was not to find out how this happened but seems to be concentrated on trying to pin it on the Russians.
“This is not a neutral kind of examination,” Mahathir added.
Rejecting the JIT accusations, Russia made public the evidence the Dutch-led researchers refused to look into, including the serial number of the missile that allegedly struck MH17, showing that it was manufactured in the Soviet Union in 1986 and was in the arsenal of the Ukrainian army at the time of the tragedy.