Investigation into downing of flight MH17 points finger of blame squarely at Russia
The Netherlands and Australia have formally accused Russia of being responsible for the deaths of their citizens in the MH17 flight shot down by a missile over Ukraine in 2014.
The announcement, which has been endorsed by NATO and the European Union, comes on the heels of the findings of international investigators (JIT), who established that the Buk missile that shot down the Malaysia Airlines plane came from the 53rd Russian anti-aircraft brigade based in Kursk.
“Only one conclusion can be drawn” of the results of the investigation: “Russia is indeed responsible for the deployment of this missile,” said the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at a press conference.
“Based on the findings of the JIT, it is now clear to the Netherlands and Australia that Russia is responsible for the deployment of the Buk missile system used to shoot down the plane,” said the Dutch Minister for Foreign Minister Stef Blok.
“We demand that Russia recognise its responsibility and cooperate fully with the investigation to find the truth and bring justice to the victims of the MH17 and their families,” Rutte said.
The European Union and NATO urged Russia to acknowledge its “responsibility and to cooperate fully with all efforts to establish accountability” for the destruction of the aircraft.
The United States and the United Kingdom also gave their support. “It is time for Russia to acknowledge its role in the destruction of the MH17 and stop its misinformation campaign,” said US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.
The accusations against Russia should be raised at a meeting of the UN Security Council scheduled for Tuesday on the situation in Ukraine, according to Rutte.
Moscow has once again denied any involvement. “Of course not,” replied Vladimir Putin, questioned whether the missile was Russian.
The Netherlands has presented “no facts” to accuse Russia and “speculate … for political ends,” accused Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok “gave me no proof” that the missile that shot down the plane belonged to the Russian army, Lavrov said after a telephone conversation with his Dutch counterpart.
The international team claimed to have carefully traced the route taken by the military convoy from Kursk across the Ukrainian border using photos and videos.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that Russia is “ready to provide all necessary assistance to establish those involved and responsible for this tragedy”.
For its part, the Russian army claimed that the missile, part of which was presented by international investigators was manufactured in 1986 in the USSR, according to the number engraved on it. However, “all the missiles manufactured in that year were removed from service after 2011,” says the Russian Ministry of Defense. The missiles manufactured in 1986 “most probably belong to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.”
Around 230 relatives of the victims have joined a lawsuit presented to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to obtain millions of euros of financial compensation.