MOSCOW — Every time more evidence has emerged that Russia-backed rebels shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, someone in Moscow has called a press conference to throw smoke over the claims. It’s a tradition going back to the days after MH17 crashed on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 people on board, when the Russian Defense Ministry held a briefing suggesting, improbably, that a Ukrainian missile or fighter jet had shot down the plane.
So it was little surprise when Almaz-Antey, the Russian state-owned maker of Buk missiles, held a press conference on Tuesday to shift the blame off Moscow and its separatist partners in eastern Ukraine. A report by the Dutch Safety Board released the same day found that MH17 was brought down by a Buk missile fired from an area near the town of Snizhne, which at the time was under rebel control. “It’s always special when people already know that they don’t agree with a report that’s not even published yet,” Dutch Safety Board chairman Tibbe Joustra told reporters when asked about the Almaz-Antey presentation, which took place hours before the Dutch findings were announced.