Netherlands, Australia formally accuse Russian Federation of downing MH17

On May 24, the Dutch Joint Investigation Team presented the findings of its investigation into the origin of a 93K7 "Buk" (NATO reporting name: SA-11 Gadfly) surface-to-air missile system that unintentionally shot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers and crew onboard.

The airliner flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was hit by a Russian-made "Buk" anti-aircraft missile on July 17, 2014 over territory held by pro-Russian separatists.

Nevertheless, in spite of the overwhelming evidence presented the official investigation, Russian Federation has continued to deny its involvement in the atrocity, accusing Ukraine of downing the Boeing plane with one of its own Buk missile systems.

"Australia and the Netherlands have now informed the Russian Federation that we hold it responsible under worldwide law for its role in the bringing down of MH17", said Australia's foreign minister, Julie Bishop, on Friday.

"On the basis of the [joint global team's] conclusions, the Netherlands and Australia are now convinced that Russian Federation is responsible for the deployment of the Buk installation that was used to down MH17", Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok said.

It said a possible next step would be presenting its findings to an global court - which could eventually lead to charges against individuals.

The Dutch government said state liability was invoked in cases where nations violate global law, but warned it was a "complex legal process".

European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement that those responsible for the attack that killed all 298 people on board should be held accountable and said Thursday's conclusion by the Joint Investigation Team showed the missile system in question "belonged beyond doubt to the armed forces of the Russian Federation". The missile engine casing showed the number 9 д 1318869032 - a code investigators say indicates the missile was produced in Moscow in 1986.

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The EU statement called on Moscow "to accept its responsibility and to fully cooperate with all efforts to establish accountability". In December 2017, Bellingcat and The Insider established that "Delfin"'s voice was identical to that of the Russian Colonel General Nikolai Tkachev, Chief Inspector of the Central Military District, who, however, completely denied involvement in the tragedy.

"Ivannikov also supervised the procurement and transport of weapons across the Russia-Ukraine border", Bellingcat said.

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

On Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the Dutch investigation did not include any Russian participation, but did include Ukrainian representatives.

New Zealand has joined the chorus of worldwide condemnation following the findings of an global investigation into the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. But, the statement added, "This is the legal avenue that the Netherlands and Australia have now chosen to pursue".

He said the JIT was investigating "several dozen" suspects for complicity in the incident, though he did not say how high up the chain of command they went.

Meanwhile, the investigative site Bellingcat claimed it had identified the second of two men whom the JIT consider top suspects after obtaining wire-tapped conversations before and after the plane was shot out of the sky.

Dutch officials are now considering criminal proceedings against the Russian military over the attack, which killed 196 Dutch citizens.

  • Sonia Alvarado