MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday the international community had failed to provide any evidence that Moscow was behind the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in which 298 people died.
“What we’ve seen as evidence of Russia’s guilt absolutely does not suit us. We believe that there is no proof there,” Putin told reporters.
On Wednesday, international investigators charged three Russians and a Ukrainian, the first people to face justice over the catastrophe in eastern Ukraine in July, 2014.
The investigators did not implicate any Russian commanders or the Kremlin, but they released what they said was an intercept of a conversation between Putin’s aide Vladislav Surkov and a senior separatist, Alexander Borodai, on July 11, 2014.
In the intercepted phone call Borodai is heard asking for military aid from Russia.
Surkov is heard replying that he had spoken with “the most senior comrades – cannot get any more senior than that – who are in charge of this whole military story” and that they said the aid was on its way.
Putin on Thursday sought to once again shift blame onto the Ukrainian authorities.
“Who allowed flights over a military zone? Was it Russia? No. Where were the fighter jets?” Putin asked reporters, speaking after his annual four-hour phone-in.
“There are lots of questions there. But they are not being answered. They’ve simply chosen once and for all and picked the guilty party. Such an approach to the investigation does not suit us.”
Ukraine and the West have accused the separatists of using a Buk surface-to-air missile supplied by Moscow to down the Boeing plane.
Russia has denied the claim and suggested that a Ukrainian missile may have hit it.
In a bid to counter raging accusations that he was personally guilty, an ashen-faced Putin recorded a late-night video address soon after the tragedy, urging the West and Kiev not to exploit the disaster for political gain.
The trial of the four men with military and intelligence links will start in the Netherlands in March next year, although they are likely to be tried in absentia as neither Russia nor Ukraine extradite their nationals.