Dutch court says Putin supplied missile used in MH17 tragedy

THE HAGUE, 9 Feb 2023:

A Dutch court yesterday said there were “strong indications” that Russian president Vladimir Putin had supplied the missile system used to shoot down a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane (MH17) over eastern Ukraine in 2014 – but it was suspending the investigation as findings did not provide enough grounds for prosecution.

All 298 people on board the flight were killed when it was hit by a Russian Buk surface-to-air fired from rebel-held territory as it flew over eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014 en route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam.

While “the investigation produced strong indications that a decision on providing” the missiles to the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic “was taken at presidential level, (…) the high bar of complete and conclusive evidence is not reached,” a report by a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) said.

The report added that Putin, as a sitting head of state, is immune from prosecution under international law.

The JIT – which is made up of investigators from Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine – did not find any suggestion that Putin himself had ordered the plane to be shot down.

The case is also being shelved because the JIT was unable to trace any of the accused, who are believed to be in Russia, while Moscow has refused to cooperate with the investigation.

The JIT insisted the investigation could be resumed if “new information” or “altered circumstances” arise.

In November, a Dutch court sentenced three men – two Russians and one Ukrainian – in absentia to life in prison after they were found guilty of the murder of the nearly 300 people on board the plane.

Meanwhile, the Australian government today blamed Russia for blocking the investigation into the 2014 downing of flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine, a day after the Netherlands suspended the probe.

“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.

Among the fatalities were 38 Australian citizens and residents.

Australia, which has experts on the JIT along with the Netherlands, Malaysia, Belgium and Ukraine, today 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.”