Ukraine provided the missile that shot down MH17, Russia claims

The Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash site in Ukraine. Source: Twitter/ @mashableThe Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash site in Ukraine. Source: Twitter/ @mashable

Russia again blamed the Ukraine for shooting down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in 2014 in a surprise press conference held on Monday. According to the Russians, the BUK missile that shot down the Boeing was indeed produced in Russia, but was in Ukrainian hands at the time of the disaster. The international team investigating the disaster, JIT, said it will "carefully study" Russia's accusations, but also pointed out that in the past the country has been less than generous when it came to responding to requests for assistance, NOS reports.

In the press conference, a spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Defense stated that the BUK missile with which MH17 was downed was produced near Moscow in 1986, but that it was then shipped to Ukraine. At the end of the Cold War, the missile was left with the Ukrainian army, he said. 

Flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17th, 2014. All 298 people on board, including 196 Dutch, were killed. Investigation by the Dutch Safety Board and the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) so far revealed that the Malaysian Airlines flight was shot down by a BUK missile system from the 53rd Anti-aircraft Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces, fired from a field in Ukraine that was under the control of pro-Russian separatists at the time.

The JIT tracked a convoy of nearly 50 military vehicles, including the BUK that shot down MH17, from a 53rd Brigade parking area in Kursk to the border of Ukraine between June 23rd and 25th, 2014 - a few weeks before MH17 was shot down. In May the Netherlands and Australia officially held Russia accountable for its role in the MH17 disaster - providing the missile. Russia denies any involvement in the disaster, and repeatedly called the investigation biased

Russia now claims that the video images the investigators used to track the missile's transport to the Ukraine, were manipulated. Images of the BUK missile was put into video footage of a Russian transport, the spokesperson said. 

Journalist Elliot Higgins of investigative collective Bellingcat, who provided the video footage, criticized Russia's conclusions. "Those Russian 'experts' have no idea what they are talking about and do not have access to the same source material as we do", he said, according to NOS. 

Finally, the Russian Ministry of Defense also played a recording of a tapped telephone conversation. According to Russia, the conversation features a Ukrainian soldier saying in 2016 that he will shoot "another Boeing" out of the sky. Russia considers this a confession.

The JIT released a press statement saying that they will "carefully study" Russia's conclusions, but emphasized that Russia first has to send them the documents to be studied. "To date the JIT has carefully analyzed all information provided by the Russian Federation and taken it into account in the investigation", the JIT said.

The statement also lists all the times Russia refused to cooperate with the investigation. For example, over the past years the JIT did not receive a substantive response to multiple requests for legal assistance. And last month the JIT was explicitly told that no further requests need to be submitted. The JIT also said that previous theories put forward by Russia were "factually incorrect."

Russia says it sent secret information about the BUK missile to the JIT in The Hague.