A Russian suspect in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 has said he feels “a moral responsibility” for the deaths of 298 people but refused to admit to downing the passenger jet, Britain’s The Times newspaper reported Wednesday.
Igor Girkin, 49, is one of three Russian suspects who, along with one Ukrainian suspect, are accused by a Dutch-led investigation of shooting down MH17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, during the war between pro-Russian separatists and Kiev. None of the defendants, who are also charged with murdering MH17's passengers, are expected to attend their trial in the Netherlands, which has been suspended until June.
“In as much as I was the commander of the rebels and a participant in the conflict, I feel a moral responsibility for these deaths,” Girkin told The Times.
Girkin, a Russian army veteran and ex-Federal Security Service (FSB) officer, was adamant that the pro-Russian separatists under his command “did not bring down the plane.”
A long-awaited court trial of four suspects implicated in the July 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 began today (March 9) at The Hague in the Netherlands.
Three Russian nationals and one Ukrainian have been indicted for the murder of all 298 passengers aboard the ill-fated flight, which was shot down over eastern Ukraine more than five years ago.
“This is a significant milestone toward finding the truth and establishing justice for the victims of the flight MH17 tragedy,” read a March 7 statement issued by Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“For justice to prevail,” the statement said, will require a “credible and transparent process based on the rule of law.”
The statement is one of the first issued by Malaysia since Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was sworn-in on March 1, and signals a distinct new tone from outgoing premier Mahathir Mohamad’s outlier position on the proceedings.
During his nearly two-year tenure, Mahathir alleged that the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) leading a probe into the disaster had been biased and politicized against Russia.
Though economic ties between Moscow and Putrajaya are modest, the two countries forged closer strategic links during Mahathir’s first and second premierships.
Malaysia’s perceived closeness to Russia, according to various Malaysian officials and reports, led to the Southeast Asian nation being stonewalled as the MH17 investigation unfolded.
While Muhyiddin’s days-old premiership is still taking shape, observers are closely watching whether or not his administration will echo past skepticism of the multinational probe.
Though Mahathir’s government did not oppose a trial, as a small number of civil society groups in Malaysia did, he claimed that evidence against the four accused was lacking and amounted to “hearsay.”
The then-premier’s remarks sparked diplomatic controversy and upset many of the victims’ next-of-kin. Mahathir’s positions, however, continue to be shared by some Malaysian officials who dealt firsthand with the disaster.
Fauziah Mohd Taib, Malaysia’s Ambassador to the Netherlands when the MH17 plane was shot down, is among them.
“From the beginning, I sensed it already. They were trying to keep me away, trying to keep Malaysia away [from the investigation],” the 64-year-old ex-diplomat said in an interview with Asia Times.
The retired envoy claimed that mutual distrust among countries in the JIT led to Malaysia being initially sidelined from the probe.
While Malaysia is part of the multinational JIT, along with Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands and Ukraine, the grouping’s investigation began without its participation, a sore point that influenced Mahathir’s stance.
As owner of the fallen aircraft, Malaysia was entitled to appoint observers to the probe and be briefed on its findings, according to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) protocols.
But it was only invited to join the criminal probe as an equal member in late November 2014, over four months after MH17 was brought down on July 17.
Fauziah, however, said her country’s prosecutorial representative was only allowed to attend meetings related to the criminal probe in March 2015.
“This is our airplane, our people were also there, all the crew members were Malaysian. Why are we not in the investigation? I found the Dutch to be pulling back when we talk about it,” she said.
“We wanted to join in the JIT from the beginning. We could join the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) daily briefings, which I attended,” she said in reference to the board’s civilian investigation tasked with determining the cause of the crash.
Malaysia, she said, was initially kept out of legal deliberations to apportion blame and criminal charges against suspects.
“They only wanted people from the prosecutor’s office. So, if you are not a lawyer, not a prosecutor, you cannot come in. Even then, there was no official invitation for us. There was no clearance, yet we insisted on being equal partners,” she said.
The veteran diplomat claimed Malaysia’s cordial ties with Russia were cause for it to be isolated from the process.
“I received some information from my colleagues in the Netherlands that it was Ukraine who didn’t want us in because they think we are quite inclined to Russia,” Fauziah said. “But we never made any statement to say that we are pro-Russia or anti-Ukraine. There were no statements, official statements or even implied statements.”
In 2016, investigators concluded that the Malaysian aircraft was hit by a Russian-made Buk-9M38 series missile fired from rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatist militias and government forces were engaged in fierce combat. Moscow denies charges that it supplied the missile system which brought down the plane.
The Netherlands and Australia announced in May 2018 that they would hold the Russian state legally responsible for the downing of MH17. Dutch media later reported that Malaysia was only notified of the politically sensitive move just prior to its announcement over fears that it would relay those intentions to Moscow through diplomatic backchannels.
Fauziah claimed that the JIT’s practice of keeping Malaysia at a diplomatic arm’s length helped to validate perceptions of Russia being politically scapegoated by the probe, a position that Mahathir repeatedly affirmed to the bewilderment of public opinion in the Netherlands, which lost 198 of its citizens in the disaster, and elsewhere.
The former Malaysian envoy did not dispute Russia’s support for the rebels in eastern Ukraine, though she claimed Moscow’s own version of events were not examined by the probe. “Because [the JIT] were apportioning blame from the beginning, I think the Russian side should have been given the opportunity to explain themselves,” she said.
“You’ve already blamed Russia and you have already started to enforce sanctions. Why are you doing this when you don’t know yet? That was what I told them,” Fauziah said in reference to economic sanctions levelled against Moscow by the United States and the European Union on July 29, 2014 over its role in the MH17 incident.
“From there I noticed there was this ‘you are not my friend’ kind of feeling. You can see it’s a geopolitical game already. Immediately, you have all finger-pointing to Russia. They were taking advantage of the victims of the incident to come up with something they’ve been waiting for, an opportunity,” she claimed.
It is unlikely that those sentiments will inform the Muhyiddin administration’s stance toward the trial, which is expected to continue throughout 2020. Despite Mahathir’s contrarian position, his government had formally endorsed the JIT’s findings while calling for transparent scrutiny of existing evidence and the gathering of additional data.
There is at least one indication that the new Malaysian government seeks to quiet internal critics.
Colonel Mohd Sakri Hussin, the chief negotiator of a Malaysian team that covertly entered rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine to retrieve MH17’s flight data recorders and victim remains, had been due to speak at a documentary screening in London on March 3.
Sakri and Mahathir appeared in the online investigative documentary MH17 – Call for Justice and the former had travelled to the United Kingdom to take part in the event’s panel discussion.
Event co-organizer Bonanza Media confirmed to Asia Times that Muhyiddin’s newly-appointed government requested the colonel not to address the gathering, to which he complied.
At present, Dutch prosecutors hold four individuals responsible for the downing of MH17: Russian nationals Sergey Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov and Igor Girkin, and Ukrainian, Leonid Kharchenko.
None of the four suspects were crew members of the vehicle that fired the missile, but are believed to have colluded with those who carried out the attack.
The malaysianinsight posted, that Russia has invites Malaysia to study the information it had given to the Joint Investigation Team on the 2014 Malaysian Airlines MH17 crash over eastern Ukraine.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov had a talk and claimed that "Russia has done a lot to ensure absolutely objective, detailed, concrete investigation and all the things we have transferred as data, as demonstration of what may have happened and what conclusion there might be, and all that is ignored by the JIT.”
"Mr. Resch says that he will disclose the information only if the JIT, Dutch prosecutors and possibly created by that time a Malaysian investigative committee will confirm in a written statement no later than October 18 that the disclosure will be made in the presence of the international media and the interested states," a letter of Resch's lawyer read.
According to the letter, if there is no decision concerning the Resch's request, the detective will consider the case as closed and refuse to give testimony in the European Court of Human Rights.
Joseph Resch, a German detective, who carried out his own investigation into the 2014 Malaysian Airlines MH17 crash over east Ukraine, ordered by a private client, said that he was ready to discuss sharing his findings on the causes of the tragedy with the Malaysian authorities.
"We believe that the Malaysian authorities should contact us via the embassy or a lawyer, so that they could inform the Malaysian government about the ways this could be organised, if the conditions are satisfied," Resch said.
In July, Resch, who has been independently investigating the MH17
disaster since 2014 at the behest of an unnamed client, attempted to
submit potentially groundbreaking new material on the case to the
Dutch-led Joint Investigative Team (JIT), but was rejected after he
asked to make the information public.
In mid-2015, an unnamed informant turned to the detective, allegedly providing him with important insider information.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, was shot down on 17 July 2014 as it was flying over eastern Ukraine, where a military conflict between the Ukrainian Army and the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) was taking place at the time. Kiev delegated the investigation into the incident to the Netherlands, but before the probe even started, Western governments accused Russia of supplying the DPR with the weaponry that had allegedly had downed the plane. Moscow denied being involved in the conflict in general, let alone supplying the DPR with arms.
Some Western observers are criticizing a Ukrainian court's decision on Thursday to release Volodymyr Tsemakh, a "person of interest" in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) more than five years ago.
The decision, handed down by the Kyiv Court of Appeal, comes amid talks between Moscow and Kyiv on a prisoner swap that unconfirmed reports have said includes Tsemakh, a Ukrainian citizen who reportedly oversaw an anti-aircraft unit among rebels stationed near the commercial airliner's crash site in eastern Ukraine.
Shortly after reports of Tsemakh's release circulated, Russian
President Vladimir Putin told reporters gathered at the Eastern Economic
Forum in Vladivostok that he believes the swap is imminent and will be
"rather large-scale, and a good step forward toward normalization [of
relations with Ukraine]."
In the swap, which is largely viewed as a pre-condition to quadrilateral "Normandy format" peace talks tentatively scheduled for later this month, Kyiv is seeking the return of 24 sailors detained by Russia last year off Crimea, as well as filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and others, whom rights groups and the government in Kyiv say are "political prisoners" in Russia.
Last week, a Ukrainian court released Vyshinsky on his own
recognizance as he awaits trial on charges of high treason that were
brought against him in 2018.
Tsemakh's release also comes a day after a group of members of the European Parliament wrote a letter urging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy not to include Tsemakh in any deal, calling him a "key suspect" in the missile launch.
Officials from an international Dutch-led investigation have voiced concerns that transferring Tsemakh to Russian soil will make it impossible to question him about the case.
Peace vs. prosecution
International observers such as Bloomberg's Leonid Bershidsky say Tsemakh's release is an indication that the newly-elected Ukrainian president "is willing to use his considerable political capital ... to prioritize humanitarian matters."
"Such an approach would make it likely that (Zelenskiy) would also favor a broad amnesty for the separatists once the 'people's republics' rejoin Ukraine," he wrote, adding that Tsemakh's trade shows that Zelenskiy's "desire to end the war trumps all other considerations."
Security analyst Christo Grozev, with research group Bellingcat, first reported that Tsemakh might be released as part of the prisoner exchange. Grozev says Kremlin demands for Tsemakh's release are part of a broader effort to delegitimize the MH17 investigation.
"It's not going to change the amount of evidence the investigation
team has gathered — the proof will still be there — but there will be
significant damage done to the perceived legitimacy of the court
procedures, or at least that's what the Kremlin will try to argue,"
Grozev told VOA.
Without an indicted suspect or witness to take the stand in a
Netherlands courtroom, Grozev said, Russia won't need to send a legal
team, giving the court procedures the appearance of a one-sided case.
Three Russians and a Ukrainian were indicted over the downing of
flight MH17, and court proceedings in the Netherlands are scheduled for
March. But the four suspects most likely will be tried in absentia.
Although Tsemakh was not one of the four indicted, Grozev calls him the only person who had been in Ukrainian custody and who could firmly link high-ranking Russian military personnel to the 2014 disappearance.
"The Dutch investigators will be looking for the chain of command, people who gave the instructions, and not the soldiers."
Threats and denials
Russia has always denied responsibility for shooting down the commercial passenger flight and claimed last year that the Buk missile came from Ukrainian army arsenals.
Conflict in Ukraine has killed an estimated 13,000 people since 2014. Although a cease-fire deal ended major conflict there in 2015, small-scale clashes still occur regularly.
The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) apprehended Tsemakh on June 27 in the Donetsk regional city of Snizhne.
According to the Dutch-led investigation, the Buk missile was fired six kilometers south of Snizhne.
The negotiations between Russia, the Netherlands and Australia, which is a member of the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT), are ongoing, the diplomat noted.
"Well, I know there have been further discussions since March. There were some talks recently, and there will be more talks later in the year, but I don't have a date exactly," Meehan said.
Meehan added that Australia would be "happy" to consider a message by Josef Resch, a German detective who has carried out his own investigation into the MH17 crash at the order of a private client, if he decided to provide it to Canberra upon facing another refusal from the JIT to take his information into account.
"Of course, [we would be] very happy to consider, and I think the JIT will consider any new information whether it is from him or anyone else. We are not closing into any new information," Meehan said, when asked whether Australia would consider a message by Resch, noting that if the detective wanted to give Australia information, he would be "most welcome to do that."
"Certainly for me I'm not trying to analyze myself or to second guess the evidence, but I have confidence in the professionalism of the investigators. I know they subject all evidence to a very thorough and careful analysis," Meehan also said.
Resch, who claims he is aware of who is responsible for the deadly crash, has made attempts to provide the JIT with evidence related to the case, but has got a refusal because of asking to make the materials public. Resch has said he could contact Russia, Malaysia and other countries and suggest them to publish his information about the tragedy.
Flight MH17 crashed on July 17, 2014, in eastern Ukraine while en route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam. All 298 people on board were killed.
The relatives of people killed in the MH17 disaster wrote a letter to Malaysian! Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Thursday, asking him to "stop spreading doubts and divisions" and to stop making statements that are "contrary to the truth", NU.nl reports.
In June the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which consists of investigators from the Netherlands, Australia, Ukraine, Belgium and Malaysia, announced that four suspects will be prosecuted for involvement in the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014. All 298 people on board the plane were killed, including 196 Dutch. The suspects are three Russians and a Ukrainian. The plane was shot down by a BUK missile system from the Russian armed forces, which was fired from a field under the control of pro-Russian separatists at the time, according the JIT.
After the JIT's announcement, Mohamad dismissed the investigators' findings as "nothing more than hearsay" and said that the investigation into the disaster "has become a political case in which Russia is the scapegoat". He also demanded to see evidence.
Two weeks ago, during a congress in the Malaysian capital of Kuala
Lumpur, photos of the MH17 disaster were shown. Circles were drawn over
these photos with the text 'This could never have been caused by a BUK
missile", according to AD.
People who attended the conference - organized by the Perdan Global
Peace Foundation, of which Mohamad is the chairman - want the trial
against the suspects suspended, according to foundation Vliegramp MH17.
In the letter Vliegramp MH17, the foundation that supports the
relatives of MH17 victims, pointed out to Mohamad that Malaysia
supported the JIT in the past and that he is harming the investigation
with his divisive statements.
Mohamad is the oldest government leader in the world at age 94,
according to NU.nl. He ruled in Malaysia between 1981 and 2003, and
returned in 2018 after the then prime minister had to resign due to a
Malaysia wants the world to stop bringing unfounded accusations against Russia about the crash of Flight MH17 passenger aircraft over the Donbass. Will we ever know the truth about the investigation? Is the West going to reveal objective data about the tragedy?
Pravda.Ru editor-in-chief Inna Novikova asked these and other questions to Russian political scientist, teacher, expert of the Higher School of Economics Andrei Suzdaltsev.
"It appears that the West is not going to give up on the topic of prompt nuclear stroke. Do you think that they still want to destroy Russia?"
"They cherishing this dream
in the West since the times of the USSR. Now they suffer from another
exacerbation of this disease. There are many of those in the world who
dream of possessing nuclear arms. This is a big dream for President of
Belaurs Alexander Lukashenko, let alone Ukraine. Yet, they can only
dream about it. Even if they can technically build nuclear arms, they
will not be allowed to. The crisis between Russia and Ukraine would thus
be even more horrifying than the crisis between Pakistan and India."
"They haven't been bringing the topic of the crash of the Malaysian Boeing much lately. The Joint Investigation Team is not investigating anything - they try to fabricate facts by choosing the ones that they need. The work of the JIT is purely political. However, we can see Malaysia acting more decisive now. The Malaysian administration has repeatedly expressed its protests about the work of the JIT. Malaysia demands the West should stop presenting evidence-free accusations against Russia. Do you think they are ever going to find and announce the real perpetrators?"
"This is out of the question. They will never admit."
"Never? Not even in 50 years?"
"They will never announce. Russia has made many mistakes here too. We were looking guilty, we started looking for excuses."
"No, we held the press conference and provided objective data."
had a few versions too. Russia should have conducted its own detailed
investigation to dot all i's clearly. There was a military aircraft of
the Ukrainian Air Force there. Most likely, the missile was launched
from the Buk missile system. There are two things that confuse me about
this case. First off, the West promised us to conduct a full and open
investigation into the tragedy. The Americans promised to show images
made by the satellite that was flying above the area where the tragedy
took place. Yet, the investigation is still secret, and the Americans
have never shown anything either.
"Secondly, I do not understand
why there was no fly zone established over the Donbass. There were
hostilities there, planes had been shot down there too. One may accept
the fact that the plane was flying at an altitude of 10,000 meters.
Missiles do not reach such altitudes, especially the missiles that could
be found in the conflict zone. However, shortly before the tragedy,
flight control officers ordered the Malaysian aircraft to descend?! What
was that? The Buk missile system can operate within the range of 60
kilometres around and at an altitude of up to six kilometers. The
control room is located in Dnepropetrovsk.
"So they had to take the airliner down to 6,000 meters to make it
fly right above the little circle of 60 kilometers. This is what the
passenger aircraft did as pilots were following instructions from
Ukrainian flight control officers."
"A flight controller ordered the plane to drift off the course. This officer then went on vacation and vanished."
"They wanted the airplane to be in the line of the Buk missile. The officer was indeed gone, there is no information about him, but the Dutch do not say a word about it. Even if there was a Buk system in the area, they were supposed to make the passenger aircraft approach the destructive zone. It was Ukrainian flight control officers, who did that, but there is no information about it. Malaysian experts confirmed that the recordings of the dialogues of insurgents were fake. They forgot about another version that was voiced in 2014. The version is about Putin's aircraft that was flying to Moscow above Europe. They were looking for Putin's plane, but they did not know exactly where its route was. If they had found it, they would have shot the plane down."
That is what they write in Russia. Sometimes it really looks like the West presents evidence-free accusations. But what is YOUR opinion about that?
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia was offered to lead investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 that was shot down on July 17 five years ago.
Former Department of Civil Aviation director-general Datuk Seri Azharuddin Abd Rahman said the country turned down the offer as it was too occupied with investigation into the disappearance of flight MH370.
“Under the protocol of ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) Annex 13, the country where the incident had occurred would lead the investigation into the case.
“Because Ukraine is unable to go into the rebel-controlled area, the countries responsible (affected by the downing of MH17) which include Malaysia as the state operating the aircraft agreed for the investigation to be lead by the Dutch authorities.
“Malaysia was offered (to lead the investigation). However, we told them that we were too occupied with MH370, which happened four months before that. We were far away from the crash site,” he said.
Azharuddin said this at the MH17: The Quest For Justice conference here today.
day-long conference was jointly organised by the International Movement
for a Just World (JUST), the Perdana Global Peace Foundation (PGPF) and
the Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG) in collaboration with
the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM).
Azharuddin also shared with the audience that Malaysia, which only became member of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing MH17 after six months into the tragedy, downloaded and listened to the voice recordings from the black boxes of the aircraft before it was officially handed over to the Dutch authorities.
“The black boxes, the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder were taken by us from the rebels through Colonel Mohd Sakri Hussin.”
Mohd Sakri was the chief negotiator of the ‘Dozen Persons’, a Malaysian team tasked with entering Ukraine covertly to secure not just the bodies of the victims but also the downed aircraft’s cockpit voice recorder, mere days after the tragedy took place.
“We have downloaded and listened (from the recordings
from the black boxes) as we wanted to know what exactly happened the
last seconds of the incident.
“The preliminary report was made known and I had to inform the (Malaysian) government (of the findings).”
To a question from a speaker at the forum on the location of the black boxes now, Azharuddin said all the evidence was kept by the Dutch authorities.
“This is because the prosecution of this case would be done in at the Court in the Netherlands.
“That is why it (all the evidence including the black boxes) is with the authorities there.
is the same with the Lockerbie incident involving Pan Am Flight. The
international requirement is that the evidence is kept at the place
where the prosecution is being conducted,” he said.
Pan Am Flight 103 exploded when it was flying over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec 21, 1988.
six years later, flight MH17, which was flying 298 passengers and crew
including 43 Malaysians was shot down near Hrabove, a village in the
eastern part of Ukraine.
The aircraft had departed Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam and was on its way to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down.
Flight MH370 vanished from radar while on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board.
Malaysia wants evidence to show that Russia is responsible for the flight MH17 tragedy in 2014, says Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Dr Mahathir said while the Malaysian government agreed that the plane was brought down by a Russian missile, it cannot be certain that the missile was launched by Russia. “They are accusing Russia but where is the evidence? We know the missile that brought down the plane is a Russian type missile, but it could also be made in Ukraine.
"You need strong evidence to show it was fired by the Russians. It could be by the rebels in Ukraine, it could be Ukrainian government because they too have the same missile,” said Prime Minister. “We don’t know why we are excluded from the examination but from the very beginning, we see too much politics in it and the idea was not to find out how this happened but seems to be concentrated on trying to pin it to the Russians. This is not a neutral kind of examination,” said Dr Mahathir.
I've a question. Why does Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team not ask such simple question? I know. There are too much politics in this tragedy. I mean, there is too much politics then so little the true.