Netherlands, Australia holding Russia 'accountable' for downing of MH17
Dutch foreign minister calls on Russia to provide financial compensation for relatives of victims
The Netherlands and Australia said Friday that they are holding Russia legally responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was shot down over war-ravaged Eastern Ukraine nearly four years ago, killing all 298 people aboard.
The announcement by the foreign ministers of both countries came a day after international investigators announced that the missile system that brought down the Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight came from a Russia-based military unit. They displayed photos and videos from social media tracking a large convoy of rocket launchers through Russia.
Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said that following that conclusion, "the government is now taking the next step by formally holding Russia accountable."
"The Netherlands and Australia today asked Russia to enter into talks aimed at finding a solution that would do justice to the tremendous suffering and damage caused by the downing of MH17," Blok said in a statement which included a request for Russia to provide compensation. "A possible next step is to present the case to an international court or organization for their judgment."
Russia denies involvement in the July 17, 2014, missile strike that blew the Boeing 777 out of the sky at about 10,000 metres over war-ravaged eastern Ukraine.
Bodies, debris and burning wreckage were strewn over a field of sunflowers near the rebel-held village of Hrabove in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, about 40 kilometres from the Russian border, where fighting had been raging for months.
All 298 passengers and crew were killed, a 24-year-old Canadian man among them. Victims from more than 30 nationalities were on the flight: 196 were Dutch, 42 from Malaysia and 27 were Australians.
Russia says allegations are 'unfounded claims'
Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, has said that Russia has been barred from the international investigation and thus can't trust its results. He also charged that Ukraine contributed to the tragedy by failing to ban civilian air traffic over the war zone.
The Russian Defence Ministry said Friday that rocket fragments displayed Thursday by investigators indicated the Soviet-made missile was produced in 1986. It said the Russian military decommissioned all missiles of that type in 2011.
It added that Ukraine inherited such missiles from the Soviet army, saying the fragments displayed by the investigators indicated the weapon "more than likely belonged to the Ukrainian armed forces."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters that Moscow has co-operated with the investigation and sent data including radar images from the day the plane was shot down.
"The foreign minister of the Netherlands called me to say they have no doubts that the Buk came from Russia," Lavrov said, referring to the missile. "I asked him about the facts that would prove it, but he failed to offer any. He said they want Russia to help determine the facts on the basis of those unfounded claims."
Despite Russia's resistance, the father of one of the passengers welcomed the move on Friday.
"This is great news," said Hans de Borst, who lost his daughter, Elsemiek. "I understand why the government waited, but now the evidence is clear."
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called for support from the international community for the move.
"This represents a threat to international security," she said. "If military weapons can be deployed and then used to bring down civilian aircraft in what was essentially a war zone, then international security is at risk and we call on all countries to inform the Russian Federation that its conduct is unacceptable."