Dutch, Australia say Russia responsible for downing MH17

The Hague (AFP) –


The Netherlands and Australia are holding Russia "accountable" for the 2014 downing of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, Dutch officials said Friday, in a move likely to lead to legal action.

The two countries "hold Russia responsible for its part in the downing" of the Malaysia Airlines flight, the Dutch government said in a statement.

The two countries may now move towards submitting the complex dossier to an international judge or organisation, it added.

The move came a day after investigators concluded that the Russian-made BUK missile which smashed into the plane in mid-air on July 17, 2014 came from a Russian military brigade in Kursk.

All 298 people on board the flight en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were killed. Most were Dutch, but there were 17 nationalities including Australian on board.

"The downing of flight MH17 caused unimaginable suffering," said Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok a day after the latest findings from the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the disaster.

"On the basis of the JIT's conclusions, the Netherlands and Australia are now convinced that Russia is responsible for the deployment of the BUK installation that was used to down MH17," he added.

"The government is now taking the next step by formally holding Russia accountable."

The government said state liability was invoked in cases where nations violate international law, but warned it was a "complex legal process and there are several ways to do this."

"This is the legal avenue that the Netherlands and Australia have now chosen to pursue," the statement added.

Moscow has rejected Thursday's accusations, saying no such weapon had ever crossed the Russian-Ukrainian border.

The Russian foreign ministry denounced what it called an attempt to "discredit Russia in the eyes of the international community".

But investigators, who painstaking recreated the BUK missile system's route from Kursk across the border into rebel-held eastern Ukraine, said they stood by their findings.

The Joint Investigation Team "has come to the conclusion that the BUK-TELAR that shot down MH17 came from 53rd Anti-aircraft Missile Brigade based in Kursk in Russia," top Dutch investigator Wilbert Paulissen said.

"The 53rd Brigade forms part of the Russian armed forces," he told reporters Thursday.

Investigation officials have not yet said who actually fired the missile after it arrived in rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine, stressing that the investigation continues.