Putin Blames Ukraine for MH17 for Failing to Stop Planes Flying Over Conflict Zone

Russian President Vladimir Putin has blamed Ukraine for allowing Malaysia Airlines plane MH17 to fly over a conflict zone before it was shot down.

In a rare interview with a foreign news broadcaster, the Russian president told Austrian network ORF that despite Russian weapons being used in the downing of the plane, Moscow was not responsible.

Last week, investigators named the Russian military officer Oleg Vladimirovich Ivannikov as being behind the transportation of the Russian-made BUK missile system that shot down the Boeing 777 in the Donetsk region, in eastern Ukraine, on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 people on board.

But Putin was bullish in his interview ahead of a visit to meet the Austrian president and insisted that both the Ukrainian battalions and the armed units used the same weapons in the eastern part of Ukraine.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin answers questions at a news conference at the Kremlin, in Moscow, on May 30. In a rare interview with a foreign news broadcaster, the Russian president told Austrian network ORF that despite Russian weapons being used in the downing of the plane, Moscow was not responsible. Pavel Golovkin/Pool via REUTERS

"The two sides have all sorts of systems—both firearms, aviation and anti-aircraft systems. All of them were made in Russia.... The Russian army has exactly the same systems the experts are talking about, this is the first thing.

"The second thing is that Russian experts have been denied access to the investigation, our arguments are not taken into consideration, and nobody in the commission is interested in hearing us out.

"On the other hand, the Ukrainian side, which is a party interested in the results of the investigation, does have access. Meanwhile, it is responsible at least for failing to prohibit civilian aircraft to fly in the conflict zone in violation of ICAO's [International Civil Aviation Organization] international norms.

"We are still unable to get answers to some questions regarding the activities of Ukrainian air forces in that region, at that place and at that time," he said.

Last month, the multinational Joint Investigation Team (JIT) of experts from the Netherlands, Australia and Malaysia, said Russia was directly responsible. But Putin batted away any Kremlin culpability.

When asked by interviewer Armin Wolf what those countries would have to gain by blaming Russia, Putin replied: "You now listed countries that allegedly believe that it was a Russian missile and that Russia is implicated in that terrible tragedy.

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A pro-Russian Ukrainian rebel at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the settlement of Grabovo, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, on July 18, 2014. Maxim Zmeyev/reuters

"I regret to disappoint you. Quite recently, Malaysian officials declared that they do not see Russia's complicity in that tragic event; they have no proof that Russia is implicated. Are you really not aware of that? Did you not see the statements by Malaysian officials?"

Analysis by the Dutch-led investigators revealed that the missile was fired by a Russian military convoy and that it came from the Russian military's anti-aircraft missile brigade in Kursk before being taken across the Ukrainian border. The Kremlin has denied the investigators' findings.

"If we really want to get to the bottom of things in that horrendous event and reveal all the factors that would allow us to render a final conclusion, all arguments should be taken into account, including the ones offered by Russia," Putin added.

In the wide-ranging interview, the Russian leader also played down reports that the Kremlin sought to disrupt the European Union.

Putin's visit to Austria is his first to a Western European country in nearly a year, and he will meet the country's president, Alexander Van der Bellen, and chancellor, Sebastian Kurz.

Putin Blames Ukraine for MH17 for Failing to Stop Planes Flying Over Conflict Zone | World