Malaysian PM scorns aircraft shoot-down charges

World | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 21 Jun 2019

Malaysia's prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, has slammed a decision to charge three Russians and a Ukrainian with murder over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

International investigators charged the men on Wednesday, making them the first people to face justice over the tragedy five years ago when 298 people were killed.

The Boeing 777 was going from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was hit by a missile over a part of Ukraine held by pro-Russian rebels.

"We are very unhappy because from the very beginning it became a political issue on how to accuse Russia of wrongdoing," Mahathir said.

"It is a ridiculous thing. As far as we are concerned we want proof of guilt. So far there is no proof. Only hearsay."

Malaysian Foreign Ministry officials said earlier that the country "appreciates" the efforts of the Dutch-led investigation team. But they added that Malaysia is "committed to ensuring the process is transparent, credible and effective [with] conclusions based on evidence and not politically motivated."

Russia has hit at "absolutely unfounded accusations" while the United States urged Moscow to ensure those charged with murder face justice.

The accused are Russian nationals Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko. All have military and intelligence links and are suspected of roles in the separatist Donetsk People's Republic.

Prosecutors say the four were responsible for taking a BUK missile system from Russia into eastern Ukraine "even though they have not pushed the button themselves."

The same team said last year that the BUK anti-aircraft missile that hit the plane came from a Russian brigade.

The trial starts in the Netherlands in March next year. But the four are likely to be tried in absentia as neither Russia nor Ukraine extradites their nationals.

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