MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia is demanding to know why international investigators have yet to publish the black box data from a Malaysian airliner that was shot down over eastern Ukraine in July, a deputy defense minister said in an interview published on Saturday.
Moscow blames Ukraine for the disaster, in which all 298 passengers and crew were killed. In a version of events widely believed in the West, Ukraine says the Boeing 777 was shot down by pro-Russian separatists with a surface-to-air missile.
“The Boeing catastrophe throws up more and more questions. But lately not many people are talking about this,” Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told RIA news agency.
“Why have the data still not been published about the conversations between the air traffic controllers and the pilots of the Boeing? Why haven’t the data been presented from the international investigation of the black boxes? Who doesn’t want this to happen?”
The interview marked the latest example of Moscow’s attempts to go on the media offensive at a time when it faces intense international pressure over mounting evidence of its military support for the rebels, something it continues to deny.
The Netherlands, which had 195 nationals on board the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, is leading the international investigation into the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
The July 17 incident stirred international outrage, which only increased when rebel fighters impeded investigators’ access to the bodies and wreckage.
Antonov said Russia had established that a Ukrainian Su-25 military aircraft was in the vicinity of the Malaysian airliner.
“Where is the transcript of the recordings of conversations between the pilot of this plane and his command? How did a military aircraft come to be alongside a civilian one?
“If people are saying today that a rocket was fired from the ground towards that military plane, then I’d like to look that military pilot in the eye who used a civilian plane as cover, if of course that’s what happened,” Antonov said.
His comments appeared to allow for the possibility that rebels might have downed the airliner in a failed attempt to hit a Ukrainian military plane, although he said these were only “working versions” of what may have happened.
Antonov said his ministry was pressing for answers about the tragedy from the United States, Ukraine and European countries.
He reiterated Russia’s denials of military intervention in Ukraine: “When people say today that Russia has launched aggression or war against Ukraine, that is all nonsense.”
By Mark Trevelyan
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)