One of the main suspects named in the shooting down of passenger flight MH17 over Ukraine denied on Wednesday that pro-Russian separatists were behind the missile attack that left 298 people dead.
“I can only say that rebels did not shoot down the Boeing,” Igor Strelkov, who is also known as Igor Girkin, told Russia’s Interfax news agency.
On Wednesday, international investigators said they were issuing arrest warrants for Girkin and three other suspects over the downing of the Malaysia Airlines plane in July, 2014 when it was shot out of the sky by a BUK missile.
The Dutch-led probe said it was going to prosecute Russian nationals Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov as well as Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, adding they would be placed on national and international wanted lists.
Dutch prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said the four men “will be held accountable for bringing the deadly weapon, the BUK Telar, into eastern Ukraine”.
Relatives of the victims earlier said they had been told the trial of the four men would begin in the Netherlands in March 2020.
However the suspects are likely to be tried in absentia as Russia does not allow its nationals to be sent abroad for prosecution.
Of the four men, Girkin, who is thought to be living in Moscow, is the most high-profile suspect.
He was a senior commander in Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine before apparently falling out with the Kremlin.
He told Interfax he would not provide testimony in the case.
“I don’t even want to comment this. Neither me nor other rebels are involved,” he was quoted as saying.
Strelkov, speaking though an aide, said he would not speak to AFP. “He spoke the truth and the truth does not change over time,” the aide, Alexei Sorokovoi, said.
Earlier on Wednesday the Kremlin denied to comment, complaining only that Russia was not part of the investigation.
The same investigation team said last year that the BUK anti-aircraft missile which hit the Boeing 777 had originated from the 53rd Russian military brigade based in Russia’s southwestern city of Kursk.
© Agence France-Presse