- The US State Department has issued a statement criticizing Russia every year since the 2014 attack on Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 which killed 298 people – but not this year.
- The silence came just one day after Trump was accused of siding with Putin over US intelligence agencies at a press conference in Helsinki.
- Russia has long believed to be behind the attack, but this year is the first anniversary since international investigators concluded that the missile that downed the plane came from a Russian base.
- The State Department was silent this year – and Foreign Policy reports that a draft statement criticizing Russia was never made public.
The US State Department pulled a statement that criticized Russia’s involvement in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 just one day after President Donald Trump held a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin that appeared to show him siding with Russia over US intelligence agencies.
The State Department created a draft statement that was critical of Russia over the 2014 attack that killed 298 people, but it was never released, Foreign Policy reported.
A cached version of the US embassy’s website in Moscow shows that a critical statement of Russia appeared briefly on the homepage on Tuesday before being taken down, according to Foreign Policy. A US official confirmed this account to the magazine.
“Four years after the downing of MH17, the world still awaits Russia’s acknowledgement of its role,” the draft statement read.
“It is time for Russia to cease its callous disinformation campaign and fully support the next investigative phase … and the criminal prosecution of those responsible for the downing of flight MH17.”
The MH17 flight was downed in Eastern Ukraine as it traveled from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing 283 passengers and 15 crew members.
The State Department has issued a statement every year on the anniversary of the attack since it occurred in 2014. This year’s anniversary was particularly significant – the first since a Dutch-led international investigation into the incident concluded that the plane was taken down by a missile from a Russian military unit based near the Ukrainian border.
- Francois Lenoir/Reuters
Former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul described the silence as “deeply disappointing” to Foreign Policy.
“This should be very pro forma in the US government. The evidence is overwhelming. Just to be on the record on the right side of history is very prudent.”
A State Department spokesman declined to comment to Foreign Policy on an allegedly leaked document. “The United States’ position on the MH17 catastrophe has not changed,” he said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did sign a joint statement with G7 foreign ministers that condemned Russia’s role in the incident. According to Foreign Policy, Canada and Britain’s governments quickly published the statement on their foreign ministries’ websites, but the US State Department did so only the news organization contacted them on Wednesday.
Russia has denied its involvement in the shoot down.
The State Department’s silence came just one day after Trump’s press conference with Putin, in which he played down Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election and faced a barrage of criticism for appearing to endorse a foreign power over the US’s own intelligence agencies.
A father who lost three of his children on MH17 publicly slammed President Donald Trump for failing to hold Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable for the attack earlier this month.