The irrefutable evidence on Flight MH17

Russia counters with usual mix of bluster and wild counter-allegation


Whether it is responding to charges that it is complicit in the deliberate bombing of hospitals in Aleppo, or was behind the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in 2014 killing 298 passengers and crew, Russia’s standard operating procedure these days is simply brazen denial. In the face of overwhelming evidence of its complicity in war crimes, Moscow’s diplomats offer bluster and outrageous, constantly changing, wild counter-allegations.

Its contempt for humanitarian law is particularly galling in a permanent member of the UN Security Council whose primary remit, on all our behalf, is upholding peace and a rules-based international order and justice system.

The publication on Tuesday of the report by the Dutch-led international inquiry into the downing of MH17 – a team including Australian, Dutch and Malaysian prosecutors – steps up the pressure on the Russians. The investigators speak of “irrefutable evidence” that the plane was shot down by a Russian-made Buk9M38 missile from a field in Ukraine that was controlled by Russian-backed fighters, and have produced photographic evidence tracking the path of a Volvo transporter with such missiles travelling from Russia into Ukraine and back, minus one missile.

Forensic evidence from the crash site, and intercepted radio transmissions and phone calls between rebel leaders and between Russian soldiers involved with the transport confirm their involvement. Some 100 identifiable people can be linked either to the transport or the downing of the plane, the investigators say.

Russia and Ukrainian rebels continue to deny any involvement – the Russians now claim the Buk missile was an old one owned by the Ukrainians and that it was fired from Ukrainian-controlled territory. It appears most unlikely, however, that Moscow will co-operate in the extradition of its soldiers for possible trial at the international criminal court which might independently test their explanation. It has also blocked a Security Council resolution calling for an international tribunal.