On Thursday, June 20, Russian President Vladimir Putin held his 17th annual call-in show, fielding questions on topics ranging from low salaries to whether or not he was tired after being at the helm of the Russian Federation for nearly two decades.
No reference was made during the four-plus hour event to the news of the previous day -- that Dutch authorities are charging three Russian citizens and one Ukrainian suspected in the July 17, 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Russian-separatist controlled territory in eastern Ukraine.
The three Russian suspects – Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov -- have all served in their country’s military intelligence service. The fourth suspect, Leonid Kharchenko, is a Ukrainian citizen.
All are being charged with causing the crash of MH17 and the murder of the 298 people on board.
Putin told journalists Russia had never shied away from taking responsibility, but said no evidence has been presented showing Russia was behind the downing of MH17.
“We think there is no evidence at all there. Everything that was presented does not prove anything. We have our own version and we have submitted it, but regrettably nobody wants to listen to us,” Putin said, according the Kremlin transcript.
The Russian president’s claim about Moscow’s own versions submitted to the investigators have, as Polygraph.info reported, been debunked:
- “MH17 was shot down by a Ukrainian jet.”
- “It was blown up by a missile intended for the Russian President’s plane.”
- “It was already full of dead bodies and deliberately crashed.”
- “It was shot down by a BUK missile but not one of Russia’s.”
In September 2016, the Joint Investigative Team (JIT), a Dutch-led international group of investigators tasked with getting to the bottom of the MH17 tragedy, released a preliminary report refuting several of these narratives.
Reports on the perpetrators would come at a later stage in the investigation.
The previous year, the Dutch Safety Board, which investigates accidents across numerous areas, likewise found that MH17 crashed as a result of the detonation of a 9N314M warhead “carried on the kind of missile that is installed on the Buk surface-to-air missile system.”
The claim that no evidence has been presented showing Russia’s culpability is also false. A raft of evidence has been presented, both by the JIT and open-source investigators like Bellingcat. The latter reported that the JIT received 150,000 intercepted phone conversations, “an unknown number of which” contain evidence relevant to the MH17 case.
While noting that any such information provided by intelligence services must be vetted for authenticity, Bellingcat reported that “evidence from open sources corroborate the authenticity of the published calls” related to the culpability of the Russia-backed militia in shooting down the civilian airliner.
“Firstly, the route that the Buk convoy took in Ukraine matches the exact route discussed in the recorded conversations,” Bellingcat reported. “Secondly, the separatist leaders Dubinsky, Bezler, and Nikolay Kozitsyn have admitted that it was indeed their voices that were heard on some of the intercepts. Lastly, voice comparisons carried out by forensic analysts in two research institutions have confirmed the identity of Russian officers Nikolay ‘Delfin’ Tkachev and Oleg ‘Orion’ Ivannikov, as described in previous Bellingcat publications.”
Dubinsky, a former Russian military intelligence officer and onetime head of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic’s main intelligence department, was recorded speaking about the transport route of the Buk-M1 missile launcher that downed MH17. As Bellingcat noted, the route described in those recorded conversations mirrored the path along which the missile launcher was filmed and photographed on July 17, 2014.
In May 2018, the JIT concluded the Buk-M1 missile launcher was from the 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade from Kursk, Russia.
According to investigators, that system was transported from Russia to an agricultural field near the town of Pervomaiskyi in eastern Ukraine, from where the missile was launched.
“After the BUK missile had been fired, the BUK-TELAR (vehicle) initially drove off under its own power,” the JIT reported. “A short time later it was reloaded onto the Volvo truck and transported back to the Russian border. During the night, the convoy crossed the border into the territory of the Russian Federation.”
Dutch police noted at that time: "All the vehicles in a convoy carrying the missile were part of the Russian armed forces.”
Bellingcat had previously collated photographs and videos of the Buk-M1 missile launcher in Donetsk, Zuhres, Luhansk, Torez, and Snizhne, Ukraine on the day MH17 was shot down.
On June 19, Girkin said “the rebels did not shoot down the Boeing,” prompting speculation he was pinning the blame on regular Russian military forces.
The day of the MH17 tragedy, a social media account associated with Girkin bragged that a Ukrainian military An-26 cargo plane had been downed near MH17’s crash site. The post showed photos of a rising column of smoke and a warning to the Ukrainian military to “stay out of our sky.”
Once it became clear that MH17, not an An-26, had been shot down, the post disappeared, and the alternative theories began.
Girkin subsequently denied making that post.
However, that same day, Russian state media ran a story headlined “Eyewitnesses claim Donbass militia downed Ukrainian An-26 plane,” which mirrored Girkin’s initial claim and is still available online today.
Polygraph.info therefore finds Putin’s claim no evidence has been provided showing Russia’s culpability in the downing of MH17 to be false.