Every year since a Russian missile downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 passengers and crew, the U.S. State Department has issued a statement to mark the anniversary.
But on the anniversary this year—a day after U.S. President Donald Trump met in Helsinki with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin—the State Department was conspicuously silent about it.
Officials there prepared a draft statement that was sharply critical of Russia for its alleged role in the attack. But for reasons the State Department has not explained, it was never issued.
Based on a cached version of the U.S. embassy’s website in Moscow, it appeared on the homepage briefly on Tuesday but then was quickly taken down. One U.S. official confirmed this account to Foreign Policy.
“Four years after the downing of MH17, the world still awaits Russia’s acknowledgement of its role,” read the draft, a copy of which was obtained by Foreign Policy.
“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 passenger jet, traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was downed in eastern Ukraine, where a conflict simmered between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists.
This anniversary was particularly significant because it was the first since the Dutch-led international investigation into the incident published its conclusion that the missile originated from a Russian military unit based near the border with Ukraine.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul described the State Department’s silence on the issue as “deeply disappointing.” [Continue reading…]