Стаття «The quest for truth over the downing of Flight MH17» Андрія Бешти, Посла України в Королівстві Таїланд, у провідному тайському виданні “The Nation” у відповідь на статтю Посла Росії.
On May 30, The Nation published an article, “Russia’s evidence in MH17 probe was provided – and ignored”, by the Russian ambassador to Thailand that directly concerns my country, Ukraine.
The article is another, very vivid example of Russia’s worldwide disinformation campaign as one of the tools of its “hybrid war” against Ukraine that was unleashed with the attempted annexation of Crimea in 2014 and subsequent military invasion in the East of Ukraine, as well as against the whole trans-Atlantic community aimed to sow discord in the West and undermine its institutions. By this disinformation, Russia either tries to impose an alternative reality or at least to obscure reality in order to create doubts about the facts.
Readers will be well aware about the developments around the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 that was downed over the territory of Eastern Ukraine in July 2014. This tragedy took the lives of 298 innocent people and caused tremendous grief and suffering to relatives and friends of the victims.
The recent decision by the Netherlands and Australia to hold Russia responsible for downing MH17 is a game-changer in relations with Russia, not only for these two countries but the whole civilised world.
This decision is based on the results of the investigation of the joint investigation team (JIT) led by the Netherlands with the assistance of the countries with the highest number of casualties – Australia, Malaysia and Belgium – and Ukraine as the place of the incident.
It is important that the new Malaysian government has confirmed its full confidence in, and continues engagement with, JIT activities. Therefore, Russia’s claim that it was not invited to take part in the investigation does not have any grounds. It was not a Russian plane, there were no victims with Russian nationality onboard, and the disaster happened outside of its territory.
But this in no way means that Russia has nothing to do with this tragedy. On the contrary, after almost four years of meticulous work, the JIT at the end of May concluded the BUK telar carrying surface-to-air missile used to down MH17 belonged to the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Rocket Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces permanently located near the city of Kursk.
The missile system was transferred to the Donetsk region of Ukraine controlled by the Russia-backed illegal armed groups, used to shoot down a civilian aircraft and was then taken back the next day to the Russian Federation through the uncontrolled segment of the Ukraine-Russia state border.
During the four years since the tragedy Russia, in violation of UN Security Council resolution 2166, has been trying to hide the evidence of its responsibility as a state for this horrible attack and cover up those personally responsible for downing MH17.
In July 2015 Russia used its permanent member status in the UN Security Council to block the draft resolution aimed at establishing an international tribunal on MH17 in order to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice. It was the only nation to oppose this resolution.
Russia has invested huge political and financial resources to create a smokescreen of fake news and disinformation inventing most exotic versions of the downing of MH17. Probably the most notorious Russian move to mislead the investigation was shamelessly bribing a Spanish citizen to pose as a Ukrainian air-traffic controller and provide false evidence about two Ukrainian fighter jets near MH17 before it was shot down.
The Russian authorities were also inventive enough to engage the state-owned consortium Almaz-Antey – producer of the BUK missile – in “processing” the raw data on flight MH17 from radars on Russian territory. This was later handed over to the investigators.
The JIT had to look into all possible scenarios, including those invented by Russia, to make sure the results of the investigation were credible. Contrary to Russia’s claims, the JIT took into account material provided by Russian authorities and treated it in exactly the same way as all other material gathered during the investigation.
Having been caught red-handed, Russia now tries to shift the attention to the issue of Ukraine’s responsibility for not closing its airspace for civilian aviation on the day of downing of MH17. This is despite the fact that the results of the technical investigation by the Dutch Safety Board presented in October 2015 confirmed that Ukraine acted in full conformity with the ICAO regulations and took measures which were adequate to the confirmed risks.
Just last week the Dutch government concluded the absence of any grounds to bring Ukraine to responsibility with regard to the management of air traffic on the day of the tragedy. Unfortunately, Russia didn’t inform Ukraine about its intention to deliver the highly sophisticated BUK telar to Eastern Ukraine. At the same time, the Dutch Safety Board has established that – surprisingly – on the day of its delivery Russia closed its own airspace in the region bordering Ukraine. This makes the Russian claims particularly cynical.
Ukraine fully supports the decision of the Netherlands and Australia to hold Russia responsible for downing MH17. On our part we will continue to prosecute Russia in the International Court of Justice for its violations of international law, in particular the International Convention on Suppression of Financing of Terrorism and its role in downing of MH17.
Instead of acknowledging the hard facts established by the JIT, based on irrefutable evidence, the Russian authorities do not show the slightest interest in achieving truth, justice and accountability. It’s time for Russia to change its behaviour and compensate all losses caused to Ukraine and other nations by its crimes, or face responsibility and further international isolation.
The mills of international justice grind slowly but surely.
ANDRII BESHTA is the ambassador of Ukraine to Thailand.