Even though the investigation report of the Netherlands indicated that the plane was brought down by a missile made by Russia, Mahathir said it cannot be certain that the missile was launched by Russia.
“They are accusing Russia but where is the evidence? We know the missile that brought down the plane is a Russian-type missile, but it could also be made in Ukraine.” He added: “You need strong evidence to show it was fired by the Russians.”
The Prime Minister made the remarks during a dialogue and media conference at the Japanese Foreign Correspondents Club (FCCJ) in Tokyo. “It could be by the rebels in Ukraine; it could be Ukrainian government because they too have the same missile,” he said.
The parties to the armed conflict in Donbass accused each other of being complicit in the tragedy.
Mahathir said that the Russian military would not make the mistake of targeting a passenger plane. “I don’t think a very highly disciplined party is responsible for launching the missile,” he said.
The Prime Minister expressed his desire that Malaysia be involved in examining the black box as the plane belongs to Malaysia and there were Malaysian passengers killed in the crash.
“We may not have the expertise but we can buy the expertise. For some reason, Malaysia was not allowed to check the black box to see what happened. We don’t know why we are excluded from the examination but from the very beginning, we see too much politics in it.
“The idea was not to find out how this happened but seems to be concentrated on trying to pin it on the Russians. This is not a neutral kind of examination,” Mahathir said.
He suggested that the current findings of Russian involvement were not convincing. “Had a neutral party examined and made the conclusion, Malaysia is willing to accept the findings but here we have parties with political interests in the matter,” he added.
Flight MH17, which departed from Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, on its way to Kuala Lumpur, was shot before crashing near Torez in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, some 40km from the Russian border on July 17, 2014. The crash killed 298 people, including 196 Dutch citizens.
According to the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT), a BUK Telar missile was used to down MH17, and it had originated from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade (53rd Brigade), which is a unit of the Russian army in Kursk in the Russian Federation.
The government of Netherlands has acknowledged the statement by the Malaysian Prime Minister, the RTL channel reported on Friday, citing the Dutch Foreign Ministry.
“We have taken note of these statements,” the ministry said, adding that Malaysia “has always supported the investigation both from the angle of bilateral relations and as a member of the Joint Investigation Team”.
Russia’s Defense Ministry rejected all the accusations saying that none of the Russian Army’s air defense missile systems had ever crossed the border between Russia and Ukraine.
Dutch Forum for Democracy leader Thierry Baudet in his debate with VVD leader Mark Rutte last week questioned the independence of the Joint Investigation Team’s investigation into the downing of the plane. He also said that Ukraine may be behind the attack.
“I have my doubts about the investigation by the JIT. Ukraine is also one of the possible perpetrators of this attack.” Baudet said. Russia has repeatedly questioned the independence of the investigation.
According to Baudet, it is up to the judge to decide who was responsible for the MH17 disaster, and not to politicians to anticipate a verdict and blame Russia.
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 a few weeks before MH17 was shot down. Australia and the Netherlands have officially held Russia accountable for its role in the MH17 disaster by providing the missile that shot down the plane, in May last year.
In September Russia held a press conference in which it confirmed that the BUK missile was made in Russia, but pointed out that it was in Ukrainian hands at the time of the disaster.
In October this year, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it would be willing to discuss MH17 liability with the Netherlands, “partly with the goal of looking professionally at the responsibility of Ukraine”. The first meetings took place in March.
Last year the Malaysian leader commented on the Malaysia Airlines flight 370, saying it was taken over remotely to foil a hijacking. It vanished three months before MH17 and was never found.
“It was reported in 2006 that Boeing was given a licence to operate the takeover of a hijacked plane while it is flying so I wonder whether that’s what happened,” the 92-year-old told The Australian. “The capacity to do that is there. The technology is there,” he added.
MH370 vanished on March 8, 2014 with 239 people on board less than an hour into a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.