Russia urged to accept responsibility for MH17 aircraft atrocity

Investigators say missile that downed aircraft in 2014 came from Russian military

Russia faced international calls to accept responsibility for the downing of Flight MH17 on Tuesday, four years after the Malaysia Airlines jet was blown out of the sky over war-torn eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

A Dutch-led joint investigative team says the Buk missile which brought down the Boeing 777 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur came to Ukraine from the Russian military’s 53rd anti-aircraft brigade, based in the city of Kursk.

It is not yet clear whether the rocket was fired by Russian servicemen or members of separatist militia backed and supplied by Moscow, but the Netherlands and Australia – which lost 196 and 38 citizens respectively in the disaster – said in May that they would hold the Russian state legally responsible for the atrocity.

The Kremlin has always denied involvement in the incident and has sought to put the blame on Ukraine, with Russian officials and state media offering often-outlandish alternative theories that experts have debunked and rejected.


Accountability and justice

A day after US president Donald Trump apparently failed to challenge his Russian counterpart over MH17, Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said: "I certainly don't trust President [Vladimir] Putin when he said he wasn't responsible for the shooting down of MH17, which was four years ago today."

Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop said that "we remain resolute in pursuing accountability and seeking justice for the victims and their loved ones . . . Holding Russia responsible for its role in the downing of MH17 is vital."

Ms Bishop said she would discuss the issue with British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt during a visit to London next week. "The UK fully supports Australia and the Netherlands in their call on the Russian Federation to accept state responsibility," Mr Hunt said on Tuesday.

“This is another example of the Russian Federation’s disregard for human life and the rules-based international system, and Russia must answer for its actions,” he added, as London continues to demand answers from Moscow over the poisoning of four people in the Salisbury area with the Novichok nerve agent.

Next of kin

Before the US-Russia summit, foreign ministers from G7 states said they were "united in our support of Australia and the Netherlands as they call on Russia to account for its role in this incident and to co-operate fully with the process to establish the truth and achieve justice for the victims of MH17 and their next of kin".

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte joined relatives of MH17 victims for a commemoration ceremony at the Netherlands's monument to the tragedy near Amsterdam's Schiphol airport.

"Russia itself should bear responsibility for this act of terror," said Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko. "All those involved . . . should be brought to justice and punished."

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe