Moscow shared MH17 radar images, Dutch probe ignored evidence, Russia tells victims’ relatives in open letter
Head of Russian aviation agency urges the relatives of the MH17 victims to demand maximum transparency from both Dutch authorities and their partners in the probe.
Moscow provided the Netherlands with radar and other data on the MH17 crash but it has all been ignored, a Russian aviation official said, responding to the relatives of Dutch victims who recently wrote to President Vladimir Putin. Oleg Storchevoy, the deputy head of Rosaviatsia, the agency representing Russia in the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash investigation, has personally addressed the relatives of the victims in a lengthy letter. [Full text of letter below.]
“I would like to emphasize that Russia is strongly committed to establishing the actual cause of the crash, and has consistently done everything in its power to help find out the truth, both throughout the course of the technical investigation and following its official completion,” he said.
Desperate for answers that would shed the light on who fired the BUK missile that allegedly hit the passenger plane on July 17, 2014, and dissatisfied with the slow-moving Dutch probe, the relatives have turned to the heads of several states, including Russia’s. On January 22, they sent a letter to Putin, asking about the primary data from radars and satellites, which they think is crucial.
“We did not impose any conditions or restrictions regarding further use and disclosure of radar data, records of phone conversations and other data we submitted to the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) at its request. Moreover, Russia has stored all that data to this day, and is willing to provide it once again to the relevant authorities,” said Storchevoy.
In mid-January, the relatives wrote to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, demanding a global campaign to obtain radar images that could help identify those responsible for the death of their loved ones. “We can’t accept that people have refused to provide crucial information,” they wrote.
‘Only radar data available is Russia’s’
While the Russian authorities were not involved in controlling the fatal flight, they still soon became de-facto participants of the investigation due to the unique information obtained from radars in Rostov-on-Don, a Russian city not far from the Ukrainian border.
“I would like to stress that Russia disclosed all of its available satellite data in the days immediately following the crash,” said Storchevoy in his letter.
Rosaviatsia’s deputy head stressed that the Russian radar data was the only such data available to the Dutch investigators, as it appeared that Ukraine’s radar stations “for unknown reasons” were not functioning on July 17. Neither did Ukrainian authorities have any backup system to maintain flight safety in the military zone.
Dutch report ignored Russia’s data
Having provided the radar data and phone records requested by the Dutch, Russia has never prohibited the Netherlands from either sharing with other states or publishing the information generally, Storchevoy said. However, this evidence appears not to have been reflected in the Dutch Safety Board’s (DSB) final report, released in October.
Russia is still ready to provide the same data, which it collects in video files in accordance with domestic regulations, to any authorized parties.
Moscow has also published the satellite images from July 2014 that showed Ukrainian BUK missile systems maneuvering in the conflict zone close to the site of the crash. It had handed the same images over to the DSB. However, this evidence has been ignored as well.
“This data confirms, among other things, that there was movement and increased activity by Ukrainian Buk surface-to-air missile systems observed within the conflict area in Eastern Ukraine one day ahead of the tragedy,” Storchevoy explained. “Russia shared that information with the Dutch Safety Board, but once its final report was released, it turned out the DSB had chosen not to consider Russian satellite data or even include them in the report,” he added.
Netherlands drags out probe, delays final report
Speaking of Russia’s efforts, the Rosaviatsia officials accused the DSB of leaving a number of important questions unanswered, of distorting the facts and of deliberately carrying out the probe at a sluggish pace.
Storchevoy has called on Ukraine and the U.S. to provide the information they have. He said Washington “must” share satellite images that it claims it has, while Kiev should either share its radar data or prove that it doesn’t have it.
“As far as the quality of the technical inquiry is concerned, I must point out that, in a totally inexplicable fashion, its final report leaves the most important question unanswered: How far is Ukraine responsible for failing to close its airspace? The report is extremely vague regarding the responsibility of the government in Kiev,” Storchevoy said.
Russia extremely interested in truth
In his address to the relatives of Dutch victims, Storchevoy has stressed Russia’s commitment to uncover the truth. Even after the end of the official probe, he said, Moscow is still going out of its way to find answers to major questions.
Moscow provided data from all of its radars that recorded the MH17 flight to the Dutch Safety Board in August 2014, shortly after the catastrophe, Storchevoy said.
Aside from that, Almaz-Antey, the manufacturers of the 9N314M BUK missile that the investigation said downed the plane, have staged two real-life tests. They involved decommissioned aircraft and BUK anti-aircraft missiles to verify whether missile systems currently deployed by Russian troops could have been involved in the downing of the Malaysian Airlines aircraft. However, the results of these tests have also been ignored, as has Russia’s invitation to the Dutch investigators to participate.
Storchevoy has urged the relatives of the MH17 victims to not give up on their efforts to dig out the truth and to demand maximum transparency from both Dutch authorities and their partners in the probe.
“Russia has repeatedly pointed out that the Dutch technical investigation was performed in an extremely nontransparent and biased manner. We support you in your efforts to get answers to the numerous questions that remain unanswered,” he said.
The Netherlands is finalizing its second, criminal investigation into the MH17 incident, which is likely to point fingers at specific suspects. The crash killed nearly 300 passengers and crew members on July 17, 2014 in the Donetsk Region of Eastern Ukraine. A majority of those killed in the crash were Dutch citizens.
Rather than pointing fingers, Storchevoy says it would be better for the DSB to answer questions regarding why the investigation took so long and why they hid certain pieces of information. “The Dutch authorities should explain why they distorted facts and concealed data, and why they ignored important data provided by Russia. The DSB should explain why its final report distorted data about missile fragments and places where they were found, why it failed to thoroughly examine penetration holes on the aircraft, why it mismanaged the aircraft debris, why it misrepresented the probable location from which the missile was launched, and many other discrepancies in the final report,” Storchevoy concluded.
Text of letter by Russia’s aviation authority to relatives of victims of MH17
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to express to you once more my sincere condolences over the terrible tragedy that claimed the lives of your loved ones.
As you know, Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency represented the Russian Federation in its contribution to the technical investigation into the crash of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine. In light of this, we would like to use this opportunity to respond to your recent request urging President Putin to clarify whether Russia has provided primary radar data for the inquiry.
To begin with, I would like to emphasize that Russia is strongly committed to establishing the actual cause of the crash, and has consistently done everything in its power to help find out the truth, both throughout the course of the technical investigation and following its official completion.
As for primary radar data, we hereby officially maintain that Russia provided the Dutch Safety Board with all available primary radar data tracing Flight MH17 as early as August 2014, which was right after the tragedy. We did not impose any conditions or restrictions regarding further use and disclosure of radar data, records of phone conversations and other data we submitted to the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) at its request. Moreover, Russia has stored all that data to this day, and is willing to provide it once again to the relevant authorities.
For the sake of clarity, I must specify that Russia submitted primary radar data to the DSB in the form of a video recording capturing a Russian air traffic controller’s display. It should be explained that Russian air traffic authorities store primary radar data exclusively in the form of videos, which is consistent with ICAO standards. That said, the Dutch Safety Board’s final report does not suggest that this fact might have somehow affected the findings of the technical inquiry into the circumstances and the cause of the crash.
We would also like to point out that the tragedy took place outside Russian airspace, where the airliner was not being directed by Russian air traffic controllers. Russia’s radar data became a point of interest due to the fact that Russian radar control facilities located near Rostov-on-Don were able to track MH17’s flight path. Furthermore, it was later established that the Russian primary radar data were, in fact, the only ones available, since Ukrainian air traffic control services, for some unclear reasons, had not been running primary radar surveillance, despite the fact that there were no other means available for ensuring air safety over the war zone in Eastern Ukraine.
As far as satellite imagery is concerned, I would like to stress that Russia disclosed all of its available satellite data in the days immediately following the crash. Those data confirm, among other things, that there was movement and increased activity by Ukrainian Buk surface-to-air missile systems observed within the conflict area in Eastern Ukraine one day ahead of the tragedy. Russia shared that information with the Dutch Safety Board, but once its final report was released, it turned out the DSB had chosen not to consider Russian satellite data or even include them in the report.
Russia is as determined as you are to ensure that this horrible tragedy is investigated as promptly, diligently and impartially as possible. We fully support your recent queries to the governments of the United States and Ukraine, demanding that they provide the investigators with all relevant data. The United States must disclose the satellite images that Secretary Kerry claims it has kept since the moment of the crash, which are supposedly capable of shedding light on the circumstances of the tragedy. The Ukrainian government, for its part, must disclose its primary radar data, or present credible evidence of their non-existence.
Meanwhile, Russia has consistently contributed its best efforts and committed all kinds of resources to finding out the truth about the crash. In order to provide efficient and reliable expert counsel for the investigation, we decided to engage Almaz-Antey, the Russian defense company that designed the Buk missile systems. The company administered a series of highly sophisticated and accurate studies, and conducted two full-scale experiments. In an unprecedented move, Almaz-Antey also disclosed the technical characteristics for the missiles carried by the Buk and the Buk-M1 missile systems. All of the estimates and other data obtained in the course of the studies and the experiments were submitted to the Dutch Safety Board. Russia repeatedly invited Dutch investigators to take part in those efforts, but the DSB, just as the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), have shown no interest in such collaboration. We believe the data in question to be much more useful for investigating the crash than radar data and satellite imagery. Yet the authorities in charge of the technical investigation have chosen to discard that data, too.
As far as the quality of the technical inquiry is concerned, I must point out that, in a totally inexplicable fashion, its final report leaves the most important question unanswered: How far is Ukraine responsible for failing to close its airspace? The report is extremely vague regarding the responsibility of the government in Kiev.
In view of the recurrent critique of Russia in relation to the tragedy of Flight MH17, we are forced to remind the world that, unlike the DSB and the JIT, Russia has never protracted the investigations it administered, or those in which it participated in as a full-fledged member. Russia performed all its work in a transparent manner, regularly publishing the results of our examinations and all the other steps we took. This was the case with the investigations into the crash of the Russian Airbus A321 over Egypt, where numerous provocative claims were made about the cause of the crash, but Russia did not endorse any of the theories until evidence was obtained with traces of foreign explosives found on the debris, confirming that this was a terrorist attack. And when this evidence was found, we immediately informed the international community and our partners in the investigation. This was also the case with the investigation into the crash of the Russian military Sukhoi Su-24 aircraft over Syria. Russia investigated the accident with unprecedented transparency, inviting a number of international experts and journalists to witness the opening of the flight recorders. Many foreign specialists (British, for example) expressed their admiration for both the high quality of the investigation and its transparency.
All this demonstrates that Russia has always been consistent with its conclusions and never makes accusations before the investigation is over and final accurate results are obtained.
At the same time, Russia has repeatedly pointed out that the Dutch technical investigation was performed in an extremely nontransparent and biased manner. We support you in your efforts to get answers to the numerous questions that remain unanswered. The Dutch Safety Board should explain to you and to the whole world why the technical investigation took such a long time and why it resulted in some very abstract and vague statements. The Dutch authorities should explain why they distorted facts and concealed data, and why they ignored important data provided by Russia. The DSB should explain why its final report distorted data about missile fragments and places where they were found, why it failed to thoroughly examine penetration holes on the aircraft, why it mismanaged the aircraft debris, why it misrepresented the probable location from which the missile was launched, and many other discrepancies in the final report.
Unfortunately, we observe now a very similar situation with the Joint Investigation Team in charge of the criminal investigation. Once again, the process is taking too long, and the Dutch authorities are very biased in choosing partners for the criminal investigation. All this invites many unpleasant questions and gives us reasons to worry that the criminal investigation may repeat the fate of the technical one and fail to establish the truth.
This is why Russia encourages the families and friends of the victims to demand answers to all these questions, as well as maximum transparency, objectivity, thoroughness and promptness, from the Dutch authorities and their partners in the investigation.
In conclusion, I reaffirm that Russia is more than willing to assist in any way we can with a thorough and swift investigation into this terrible tragedy.
Once again, I would like to express my deepest condolences.
Federal Air Transport Agency
Jan 14, 2016 letter: Missile fragments disprove Dutch Safety Board’s MH17 report – Rosaviatsia
New facts obtained by Russian experts through an additional study confirm that some conclusions of the Dutch final report on the MH17 crash in Ukraine were unsubstantiated and inaccurate, Russia’s civil aviation regulator Rosaviatsia says.
MOSCOW — According to a letter sent by Oleg Storchevoy, deputy head of Rosaviatsia, to Dutch Safety Board Chairman Tjibbe Joustra, the Russian experts “have continued their research based on the additional data specified in the final report and as a result obtained some new important facts that had been not examined in the course of the investigation.”
The new facts of the Dutch report called into question include the presence of heavy air defense systems in eastern Ukraine that were not controlled by Ukrainian government forces, the fact that the aircraft was hit by a 9N314M high-explosive fragmentation warhead, that the warhead that hit the aircraft was carried by a 9M38-series missile launched by a Buk surface-to-air missile system, and the position of the missile in relation to the aircraft at the moment of detonation, as well as the area it was launched from.
The final report by the Dutch Safety Board on the MH17 crash in Ukraine ignores the fact that Kiev deliberately concealed or distorted information on real threats to the safety of civil flights arising from the military activities of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense, Rosaviatsia said.
“The conclusion made in the report…that Ukraine, having sovereign control of its airspace, was responsible for ensuring the safety of flights…appears to be incomplete and does not reflect the objective fact that Ukraine ignored safety risks for civil aircraft after unleashing hostilities in the east of the country.”
The full text of the letter has been posted on Rosaviatsia’s official website.
Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 crashed over the Donetsk region in southeastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 people on board. The Kiev government forces and local independence supporters were fighting in the area at the time, and traded blame for the incident.
The DSB final report into the crash, released in mid-October, 2015, said a surface-to-air missile exploded near the passenger aircraft’s left side.
Storchevoy said later that month that he Dutch-led investigation team refused to allow Russia access to the Buk missile fragments allegedly found at the MH17 crash site or disclose their serial numbers, while some photographs that have emerged of the missile fragments raise further doubts.
Almaz-Antey, the Russian arms manufacturer that builds Buk missile systems, conducted a separate probe into the crash. It found that the missile that hit the plane could only have been launched by a Buk system located in the region of Zaroshchenske, controlled by Kiev forces at the time of the incident.
MH17 relatives demand release of primary radar data, Sputnik News, Jan 14, 2016