Categorically denying Russian culpability in downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday said that the US and Ukraine must not jump the gun on concluding Moscow’s involvement unless they produce evidence.
Lavrov’s comments came at a time when the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 “may amount to a war crime”. “This violation of international law, given the prevailing circumstances, may amount to a war crime,” Pillay said adding that according to a UN estimate, at least 1,129 people have been killed in Ukraine fighting since April.
To discuss the situation regarding MH17 downing in Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister held a press conference in Moscow where he cautioned Western nations and Ukraine not to implicate Russia without any evidence before a UN-led investigation is carried out.
Russia has been accused of backing pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine and giving them weapons and missiles and also “sponsoring terrorism” by Western nations.
Pitching for an expanded OSCE (the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) investigation into the matter, Lavrov said that OSCE monitors must be deployed on Russian-Ukrainian border, adding that the US must not impede the OSCE mission.
“We are concerned by the fact that some of our partners are trying to organize the investigation by means of holding separate bilateral talks with the Ukrainian authorities,” Lavrov said.
“We’ll regard everything else as attempts to influence investigators, question the presumption of innocence and – I don’t want to accuse anyone – but we hope no one will try to cover tracks.”
Speaking on the sanctions threat by the US and EU, Lavrov said that these measures will not affect Russia and instead make Moscow more independent.
“Sanctions simply cannot achieve their aim…” said Lavrov.
Russia also slammed the Ukrainian government for not abiding by a decision of holding ceasefire near the crash site and urged Kiev to halt military activity.
“We’ve heard Poroshenko’s promise, but his statement isn’t actually supported by actions. Fighting goes on, shelling – by Grad missiles as well – continues,” said Lavrov.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 with 298 people aboard, was reportedly shot down by pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk area of Ukraine.
According to US intelligence officials, Russia created the conditions for the jet downing, however no direct evidence has been found linking Russia’s direct role in the crash.
The US has however presented images showing large amount of tanks and weapons being transported into Ukraine. One of the photos showed three missiles (with one used) returning back to Russia just hours after the MH17 downing on July 17.