The author is the longest serving foreign correspondent covering Russia. He published his fascinating memoirs in December of 2018. They are full of insights into what has really been going on in Moscow over the past 30 years. RI wrote about it here. He is the author of 12 books, 3 of them about Russia.
The Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, has announced in a new documentary film on the shooting-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 that the claim the Russians were responsible was invented from the start. He emphasized that Malaysian officials have been stopped from reviewing the evidence.
Forty-three Malaysian nationals were among the 298 passengers and crew who were killed on board the aircraft on July 17, 2014. One of them was Puan Sri Siti Amirah, 83, step-grandmother of Najib Razak, who was the Malaysian prime minister when the aircraft was struck by a ground-fired missile.
Speaking at his office on May 26, Mahathir said: “They never allowed us to be involved from the very beginning. This is unfair and unusual. So we can see they are not really looking at the causes of the crash and who was responsible. But already they have decided it must be Russia. So we cannot accept that kind of attitude. We are interested in the rule of law, in justice for everyone irrespective of who is involved. We have to know who actually fired the missile, and only then can we accept the report as the complete truth.”
By “they”, the Malaysian prime minister was accusing the Dutch and Australian governments, as well as the US, of faking the narrative that Russian forces under Moscow’s command fired the fatal missile.
That allegation was published as the justification for the sanctions which the US and the European Union imposed on July 29, 2014. These measures were the first to commence economic and trade warfare against Russian banks and the Russian ship-building sector.
Late last year the Russian Defence Ministry provided evidence that the missile which had exploded to destroy the Malaysian passenger jet had been manufactured in a Russian plant in 1986, and then shipping to the Ukraine. Its last recorded location was at a Ukrainian military base; for more details, read this.
Mahathir is not the first senior Malaysian official to accuse the US, Dutch and Australians of lying about the MH17 crash.
In Washington, DC, time on the day of the crash, President Barack Obama telephoned Prime Minister Najib in Kuala Lumpur; the US and Malaysian records of their conversation indicate Obama did not make any claim about Russian responsibility. After the Obama call, Najib was more explicit in not assigning culpability. “We will find out what happened to the plane,” Najib said at a press conference on July 18. “If it was indeed shot down, we will press for the culprit to be brought to book. The Ukraine government believes the plane was shot down. However, at this stage, Malaysia has yet to identify the cause of the tragedy. If it transpires that the plane was indeed shot down, we insist that the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice. Emergency operations centres have been established. In the last few hours, Malaysian officials have been in constant contact with their counterparts in Ukraine and elsewhere.”
Najib told the press he had spoken to the Dutch prime minister and the Ukrainian president; he did not reveal the call from Obama.
Max vander Werff and Yana Yerlashova filmed their interview with Mahathir on May 26. This week they released an excerpt of the interview in a preview of their film, “MH 17 – Five Years On”. In May they created Bonanza Media TV Chanel, a start-up platform for independent journalists. Their MH17 documentary is the first to air on the platform. Watch the film by clicking here. The full film will be broadcast next month.
Vander Werff is the leading independent investigator of MH17’s destruction over eastern Ukraine; he is Dutch. Yana Yerlashova is a Russian documentary film-maker; she formerly worked with RT, the Russian media organization equivalent to the BBC and Voice of America state broadcasters.
On March 26, the Australian and Dutch foreign ministers made a public appearance in Sydney. They said that earlier in the month they had held with Russian representatives “the first iteration of state responsibility talks between Australia, the Netherlands and Russia.” Disclosing no details of the negotiations, the Dutch minister Stefan Blok repeated the earlier “decision to hold Russia responsible in international law for its role in the downing of Flight MH17. Following this step we entered into contact with Russia.”
The two officials did not explain why Malaysia has been excluded from “state responsibility talks” although its losses in the crash are second only to the 193 Dutch nationals, and exceed the 28 Australian casualties.
The Dutch-Australian talks led to Mahathir’s remarks recorded in the interview with vander Werff and Yerlashova on May 26.
Four days later, on May 30, Mahathir went public with his reaction to the Dutch and Australians. At a press conference in Tokyo, Bernama, the Malaysian state media agency, reported what the prime minister said. “You need strong evidence to show it was fired by the Russians,” Mahathir commented. “It could be by the rebels in Ukraine, it could be Ukrainian government because they too have the same missile…We don’t know why we are excluded from the examination but from the very beginning, we see too much politics in it and the idea was not to find out how this happened but seems to be concentrated on trying to pin it to the Russians. This is not a neutral kind of examination.”
The Murdoch media in Australia, cribbing from the Malaysian press coverage, addedthis editorial line: “Dr Mahathir is known to enjoy a good conspiracy theory and it’s not the first time his opinions have raised eyebrows.”