Business & Economy

Australia blames Russia for blocking now-suspended MH17 probe

Sydney, Australia, Feb 9 (EFE).- The Australian government blamed Russia on Thursday for blocking the investigation into the 2014 downing of flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine, a day after the Netherlands suspended the probe.

All 298 people onboard were killed when the plane was hit by a Russian Buk surface-to-air missile fired from pro-Russian separatist territory as it flew over eastern Ukraine on July 27, 2014 en route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam.

“Russia’s illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine and its lack of cooperation with the investigation have rendered ongoing investigative efforts and the collection of evidence impossible at this time,” Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Attorney General Mark Dreyfus said in a joint statement.

The Netherlands Public Prosecution Service and the MH17 Joint Investigation Team (JIT) announced Wednesday that they would temporarily suspend their investigation into additional people responsible for the crash due to insufficient evidence to launch any new prosecutions, but said the case is not closed.

Also in its findings released on Wednesday, the JIT said there are “strong indications” Russia’s President Vladimir Putin personally signed off on a decision to supply the missile that shot down the Malaysia Airlines plane.

However, investigators said the evidence was not enough to lead to prosecution and the Russian president has immunity as head of state under international law.

Among the fatalities were 38 Australian citizens and residents.

Australia, which has experts on the JIT along with the Netherlands, Malaysia, Belgium and Ukraine, on Thursday reaffirmed its commitment to “pursuing our ongoing case with the Netherlands in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to hold Russia to account for its role in the downing of the civilian aircraft.”

In November, a Dutch court sentenced two Russian citizens, Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinsky, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko to life imprisonment in absentia for the murder of the 298 people onboard MH17.

The court also concluded that the Kremlin in 2014 had “overall control” of the forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, from where the plane was shot down.

“The findings of the District Court of The Hague unequivocally and conclusively establish Russia’s responsibility for the downing of MH17,” Wong and Dreyfus stressed Thursday in their statement. EFE


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