MOSCOW: Russia on Monday sought to deflect blame over the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, accusing Kiev just days before the results of a Dutch criminal probe into the mass-killing are released.
Ukraine and the West insist pro-Russian rebels blew the Boeing 777 jet out of the sky over war-torn east Ukraine on July 17, 2014, with a missile system likely supplied by Moscow.
An international inquiry concluded last October that a Russian-made BUK missile fired from a zone held by pro-Russian separatists brought down the aircraft, but stopped short of saying who was responsible for killing all 298 passengers and crew on board.
Russia and the rebels have consistently denied any role in downing the plane, releasing a series of sometimes contradictory claims that critics say are intended to confuse the issue.
At a specially arranged briefing on Monday, Russia s defence ministry released what it claimed were radar images showing that no missile fired from rebel-held territory in the east could have hit the plane.
“The fact that Ukraine has not yet released information from the radar station suggests that the location from which the missile was launched if it was a BUK was in territory controlled by the Ukrainian armed forces,” Russian army commander Andrei Koban said.
“If the Malaysian Boeing was hit by a missile launched from any area located east of the crash site, it would have been detected by Russia’s primary radar,” Koban said, without explaining why Russian radar did not cover the areas west of the passenger jet’s flight path.
The radar footage released by Russia on Monday appeared to directly contradict earlier claims by Moscow, made in the immediate aftermath of the incident, that a Ukrainian jet was spotted close to the doomed airliner.
Initial results from a Dutch-led criminal probe into the downing of flight MH17 are due to be revealed on Wednesday.
Investigators from the Netherlands — where the majority of the passengers came from — have said the results should shed more light on the type of missile used and exactly where it was fired from.
The downing of flight MH17 ratcheted up international tensions over the conflict in Ukraine that started in April 2014 after pro-Russian gunmen took over towns in the country’s industrial east, and has since claimed some 9,600 lives.
The tragedy saw the European Union slap tougher sanctions on Russia blamed by the West for being behind the rebellion — and the punitive measures remain in place as the fighting drags on.-AFP