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Netherlands, Australia say Russia liable for MH17 downing

May 25, 2018

Strongly supported by the US, the Dutch and Australian governments are holding Russia legally responsible for downing the Malaysia Airlines flight in 2014. Officials say they may take the case to an international court.

A firefighter puts out flames from the crash of MH17 in eastern Ukraine
Image: Oleg Vtulkin

The Netherlands and Australia said on Friday that Russia is legally responsible for the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) over Ukrainian territory that killed all 298 people on board. The US "strongly supported" both countries' statements and said that Russia must "cease its callous disinformation campaign" regarding the plane's fate.

The statements come a day after international investigators probing the incident said it was brought down by a Russian military missile.

What did officials say?

  • Citing the investigators' interim findings, Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said that Australia and the Netherlands "are now convinced that Russia is responsible." He added that both governments have "taken the next step by formally holding Russia accountable."
  • The Dutch government said in a statement that a "possible" next step would be to take the case to an international court or organization. 
  • Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop urged for support from the international community, saying the findings "represent a threat to international security."
  • In a statement, the US Department of State urged Russia "to adhere to UNSCR 2166 and respond to Australia’s and the Netherlands’ legitimate requests" and said that Moscow's aggression had led to 10,300 conflict-related deaths, including those of flight MH-17.

Investigators: MH17 downed by Russian missile

Russia: No 'facts' to support claims

The Kremlin firmly rejected accusations that it was responsible for the crash, saying that since Russia had been barred from the international investigation, it couldn't trust the results.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the Netherlands did not provide any "facts" to back up claims that the missile that took out MH17 was Russian, and accused the Dutch of using the event to "achieve their own political goals."

He also urged his Dutch counterpart to examine evidence provided by Moscow about the crash before coming to a conclusion.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmmitry Peskov, also alleged that Ukraine also bore some responsibility because it failed to ban civilian air traffic. The Russian Defense Ministry also alleged that the missile belonged to Ukrainian forces.

The Russian government has long denied involvement in the crash, saying on Thursday that its missile launchers have never entered Ukraine — despite photo evidence provided by international investigators.

Read moreMH17 victims' relatives, dignitaries mourn on third anniversary of plane's downing

Map of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine

Germany, EU back MH17 findings

The German government supports calls for those who shot down MH17 to be held accountable for their actions, government spokeswoman Martina Fietz told reporters. 

"Russia should meet its responsibilities so that the tragedy can be fully cleared up and the perpetrators can be held to account," Fietz said on Friday.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also asked Russia to cooperate with investigations as well as to "accept responsibility" for the downing of the plane. 

The European Union's top diplomat Federica Mogherini and the United Kingdom also released statements supporting the probe's findings.

"This is an egregious example of the Kremlin's disregard for innocent life," British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said.

Tragic end of MH17: A surface-to-air missile shot down MH17 on July 17, 2014, over rebel-held eastern Ukraine, as it was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. All 298 passengers and crew were killed, the majority of whom were Dutch nationals, but several Australians died as well.

International probe: The Joint Investigation Team released its interim findings on Thursday. They found that the Buk missile that took out the plane was Russian and fired from the Russian military's 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade. Investigators did not say on Thursday who actually fired the missile, but said they'd narrowed the search down from 100 people of interest to several dozen.

What happens next: Although the Dutch government has said it could pursue a case against Russia in court, the process would likely be very legally tricky. Foreign Minister Blok said any attempts to hold Russia accountable for MH17 will run parallel to the Joint Investigation Team's probe.

How Bellingcat investigated MH17 plane crash

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