Statement by Ambassador Vitaly I. Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, during the Security Council Meeting on MH17


We would like to begin by again extending our condolences to the families of the deceased, as well as to the Governments of the countries whose citizens were on board the flight that crashed in Ukraine on 17 July 2014. Russia has consistently advocated for a swift determination of the reasons for the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH-17 and the bringing to justice of those responsible for the tragedy. Moreover, we have repeatedly contributed to the achievement of those objectives through concrete actions. The Russian delegation did everything in its power to ensure that the Security Council adopted resolution 2166 (2014) as soon as possible. In the course of its drafting, we insisted on including provisions with regard to the need for a comprehensive, thorough, independent international investigation under international civil aviation guidelines and with the International Civil Aviation Organization playing a leading role. Moreover, we were fully open to the immediate adoption of another draft resolution that would provide early access to the crash site to the joint investigation team. However, the States concerned chose to act outside the Council and on the basis of bilateral agreements with Ukraine, whose elaboration took additional time. In resolution 2166 (2014), we insisted on the inclusion in the text of provisions concerning the immediate cessation of all military activities in the area directly adjacent to the crash site. It was the Russian Federation that raised in the Security Council the issue of Kyiv’s violation of that provision in August, when the Ukrainian authorities unilaterally declared they would no longer adhere to the ceasefire agreement, as a result of which the joint investigation team was forced to suspend its work for a lengthy period. Within the framework of the technical investigation, pursuant to annex 13 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, Russian experts transferred to the Dutch side all the information requested of us, including data from the Rostov radar station of the air traffic control system. A few days after the crash, the Russian Ministry of Defence held a briefing during which it released all Russian satellite data, which were also sent to the Dutch side. Analysis and calculations regarding one version of the catastrophe — that the flight was shot down by a surface-to-air Buk-type missile — were also sent to the Netherlands by experts of the Russian manufacturer Almaz-Antey. To that end, data concerning the technical characteristics of such missiles was declassified. Russia was the only country to make public such data. Unfortunately, a year after the adoption of resolution 2166 (2014), serious issues remain as to how the investigation has been conducted. Russian experts were not provided equal access to the various aspects of the technical investigation. They unilaterally provide their data and calculations, but remain unaware of what then happens to the information. We have repeatedly offered to provide qualified experts and equipment to carry out complicated work, for example, metallurgical analysis, which would have enabled us, by testing pieces of the wreckage, to determine the type of missile that brought down the plane. All that remains unanswered. Turning to criminal investigations, they are being carried out by members of the joint investigation team in a closed fashion. It was reported that an agreement had been reached by the five countries not to disclose information. Given this case, what grounds are there to be assured of the impartiality of this investigation? Can the investigation stand up to the backdrop of aggressive propaganda from the media? Can it withstand the pressure of an obvious political put-up job when the causes of the disaster and those responsible are announced in advance? Moreover, such statements are being made by a number of the leaders of States that make up the joint investigation team. The Russian Federation was the only country to point out that resolution 2166 (2014) provides for comprehensive United Nations assistance for the investigation. We offered to consider the creation of the post of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General, which would have helped to ensure a truly international and transparent investigation. However, our proposal was not accepted. Also not fulfilled was the instruction to the Secretary-General in that resolution to submit to the Security Council a comprehensive set of options for facilitating United Nations assistance for the investigation. What did we get instead? We got something that was summarily prepared outside the Security Council, without thoughtful consideration of the available options for a criminal investigation: a draft resolution under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations. Our position that this was a premature, ill-defined and legally untenable step was not heeded. We have come up with an alternative draft resolution aimed at ensuring that we fully harnessed the potential of resolution 2166 (2014) and to ensure a genuine international, independent and comprehensive investigation. After reaching that goal, we could have revisited the issue legal mechanisms to bring perpetrators to justice. We would like to stress that our draft document remains on table. We believe that its proposals and ideas are still relevant. We have repeatedly stated that we do not support the idea of setting up a tribunal under Chapter VII of the Charter. There are no grounds for it, given that in resolution 2166 (2014) the Security Council did not classify the Boeing tragedy as a threat to international peace and security. It is difficult to explain how this event, which a year ago was not considered to be a threat to international peace and security, now suddenly becomes one. In principle, issues pertaining to organizing a criminal investigation do not fall under the remit of the Security Council. Well-known exceptions have been made owing to the need to determine those guilty for mass crimes deemed by the international community to be of the most serious nature. However, the experience with the Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the Tribunal for Rwanda can hardly be considered positive, given that they were very expensive, that they took a long time to carry out their work, that they were subject to political pressure, et cetera. No precedent in principle exists for the establishment by the Council of international tribunals to bring to justice those responsible for transportation disasters. This is something that has also happened in Russia, of course. In 2001, a Siberia Airlines flight was shot down over the Black Sea by Ukrainian anti-aircraft missiles. There was also the incident involving the Iran Air flight shot down over the Strait of Hormuz in 1988 by a missile fired from an American destroyer. National investigations were carried out at the time in Ukraine and in the United States, but no determination was made that a crime had been carried out. However, resolution 616 (1998), adopted following the deadly downing of the Iranian airliner, did not qualify the incident as a threat to international peace and security. Here is another example. In 2010, Russia proposed an initiative to set up a special international tribunal to prosecute pirates. We were prompted to do so by the unprecedented increase in the number of pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia. Effective mechanisms for the prosecution of pirates did not exist at the time; those apprehended at sea were often just released. The idea of an international tribunal for pirates did not enjoy support in the Security Council, despite the fact that the qualification of the situation as threatening international peace and security was quite clear. Arguments regarding the lack of efficiency, slowness and the unwieldiness of such mechanisms then emerged as the main arguments, especially from those who now support the draft resolution on the Boeing incident. We must therefore note that the draft resolution (S/2015/562) that was put to the vote today lacked any legal basis or precedent. We have repeatedly explained this to our colleagues and urged them to consider alternatives. However, the authors of the draft resolution have refused to act in a spirit of cooperation and put it to a vote, knowing that it would not lead to a positive outcome. In our view, this points to the fact that political aims were more important to them than practical objectives. This is regrettable. In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that Russia is ready to cooperate in the conduct of a full, independent and impartial investigation into the causes and circumstances of the crash of the Malaysian airliner, based on the provisions of resolution 2166 (2014) in order to identify and punish the perpetrators. The position that we have adopted today has nothing in common with promoting impunity.