Families of the Australians shot down on flight MH17 have penned an open letter to the people of Russia, as it is confirmed that the Eastern European nation was responsible for the attack.
The letter was signed by the relatives of nine victims, including three Australians, and sent to Russian newspaper Noaya Gazeta by bereaved Sydney father Jon O’Brien.
The letter was delivered in the lead-up to the 2018 FIFA World Cup, a ‘long awaited and joyous event’ that will carry ‘a different, darker meaning’ for the still-grieving families of the victims when it takes place in Russia next month.
Families of the Australians shot down on flight MH17 have penned an open letter to the people of Russia, signed by the relatives of nine victims and sent to Russian newspaper Noaya Gazeta by bereaved Sydney father Jon O’Brien (pictured)
‘Despite it being nearly four years since our lives were shattered, we struggle to comprehend what happened,’ the letter reads.
‘We now cannot experience [the people we love], we can only remember them… [And] part of our remembering must be to speak of the wrongfulness of their deaths and urging that those responsible for this crime are called to account.
‘The people we love can no longer speak for themselves.’
Flight MH17 was headed from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia when it was shot down by a BUK missile over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014.
The missile was fired by a Russian anti-aircraft missile brigade based in the city of Kursk, near the Ukrainian border, Dutch investigator Wilbert Paulissen told a press conference on Thursday.
All 298 passengers and crew, which included mainly Dutch citizens but also Brits, Malysians and Australians, were killed in the disaster.
The letter seeks to hold ‘the chain of command that led to the shooting down of MH17’ accountable for the incident, whilst accepting the innocence of ‘ordinary Russian people’ (pictured: Paul Guard, who lost his parents Jill and Roger in the tragedy)
The open letter to Russia seeks to hold ‘the chain of command that led to the shooting down of MH17’ accountable for the incident, whilst accepting the innocence of ‘ordinary Russian people’.
Though the authors expressed confidence in the thoroughness and impartiality of the Joint Investigation Team, they have been less trusting of the reporting coming out of Russian state media channels.
The letter cites multiple, ‘often contradictory stories’ as being particularly distressing, and suggests that conflicting accounts of the incident were all part of an intentionally ‘deceitful campaign… intended to distract and confuse.’
Now the authors are demanding answers.
‘We are real, and our hope is that ultimately truth will prevail.’
Emma Bell (left), originally of Lithgow in NSW, was a passionate teacher who was returning from a trip to Europe to start the new school term in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory. Jack O’Brien (right) of Sydney, was 25. His family said he was ‘loved so much’
Dutch language teacher Dafne Nieveen (left) was killed while flying home to Perth. Melbourne-based IT security consultant Marco Grippeling (right) is one of 10 Victorian residents killed in the MH17 flight disaster
Dutchman Itamar Avnon (left) was on a trip to Israel for a wedding and stopped over in Amsterdam to visit friends before boarding MH17 Flight. He was studying Australia. Emiel Mahler and girlfriend Elaine Teoh (right), both 27, were on their way to a wedding in Malaysia but lived in Melbourne
Liliane Derden (left) was a public servant from Canberra whose two daughters changed their Facebook profile pictures to photos of their mother in a touching tribute. Gary Lee, a retiree, ran a Chinese restaurant while his wife Mona (right) was a schoolteacher
Retired Wollongong couple Michael and Carol Clancy (left), in their 60s, were on a three-week European holiday. Gerry Menke and his wife Mary (right) owned an abalone pearl company in Mallacoota. Their business recently won a prize at the East Gippsland Business Awards
Shaliza Dewal (left), 45, and her Dutch husband Hans Van Den Hende (centre) were travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with their three children, Piers, 15, (top right) and Marnix, 12, (top back) and daughter Margaux, 8, (top centre)
Left: Edel Mahady was returning to Perth for the start of the school term at Good Shepherd Catholic Primary School, Kelmscott. Right: Helena Sidelik was travelling home from a friend’s wedding in Europe, back to the Gold Coast where she lived
Recently retired couple Wayne and Theresa Baker had two sons, aged in their 20s. The Bakers were based in Buddina on the Sunshine Coast but also lived in Darwin
Children Mo, Otis and Evie Maslin from Perth, who perished in the terrorist attack on MH17, were travelling home with their grandfather, Nick Norris, after a family holiday
Arjen Ryder and wife Yvonne from Albany, Queensland, were travelling together. Right: Victor Oreshkin was a religious man who was involved in church ministry
NSW resident Sister Philomene Tiernan (left), and Frankie Davison and her husband, Liam (right), were on the plane
Recently retired pathologist Roger Guard (left) and his wife Jill (right) from Toowoomba in Queensland, have also been identified from the MH17 flight
Mr Horder and his wife Susan, both 63, of Albany Creek, were among the Queenslanders aboard flight MH17 when it was shot down
Fatima Dyczynski’s lifelong dream of moving to Perth ended when the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine
Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said in a statement: ‘Today the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), of which Australia is a member, has released findings that provide further evidence of Russia’s pivotal role in the tragic downing of MH17 on 17 July 2014.
‘The JIT, which also includes member nations – Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine – has concluded that the BUK missile system that was used to down MH17, belonged to the Russian Federation’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Military Brigade.
‘This follows earlier findings of the JIT that the BUK missile system was taken from Russia to eastern Ukraine and back after the downing, and that the missile launch site was an agricultural field controlled by pro-Russian fighters.
‘That a sophisticated weapon belonging to the Russian Army was dispatched and used to shoot down a civilian aircraft should be of grave international concern. We are discussing these findings with our partners and considering our options.
‘We have full confidence in the independence of the JIT and in its thorough investigation.
‘Australia and our JIT partners are united in pursuing justice for those who lost their lives, including 38 people who called Australia home, and their loved ones, and to hold to account those responsible for this atrocious act.’
Russian projectile: The damaged Russian missile that shot down flight MH17, killing all 298 people on board, is put on display in Bunnik, Netherlands, today
Wilbert Paulissen said in the press conference today: ‘The Joint Investigation Team has come to the conclusion that the BUK-TELAR that shot down MH17 came from 53rd Anti-aircraft Missile Brigade based in Kursk in Russia.
‘All the vehicles in a convoy carrying the missile were part of the Russian armed forces.’
The investigators had previously concluded that the plane was brought down by a BUK missile fired from territory in Ukraine held by Moscow-backed rebels, but had stopped short of directly saying who pulled the trigger.
Now the team has painstaking recreated the route taken by the missile convoy from Kursk across the border into Ukraine using videos and photos.
Paulissen added the team had ‘ascertained that the BUK-TELAR has a number of unique characteristics. These characteristics as such served as a type of fingerprint for the missile.’
Evidence: Russian writing can be seen on the side of the damaged missile put on display
Horror: Debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is shown smouldering in a field on July 17, 2014 in Grabovo, Ukraine near the Russian border
Last shot: This photo shows Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 leaving Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam on July 17, 2014
The probe being led by The Netherlands is focusing on some 100 people suspected of having played an ‘active role’ in the incident, but investigators have not yet publicly named any suspects.
Chief investigator Fred Westerbeke said Thursday the probe was now in its ‘last phase’ but added there was ‘still work to be done’.
Over the past years ‘we’ve gained a lot of proof and evidence but we are not ready yet’ to move towards bringing charges, he told the press conference.
Dutch officials have announced that the trial of any suspects arrested in the shooting down of flight MH17 will be held in the Netherlands under an agreement reached with the countries leading the joint probe.
Downed: The reconstructed wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 which was shot down by a Russian missile over eastern Ukraine in July 2014 is seen in The Netherlands
BUK are a series of surface-to-air missile systems developed by Soviet and subsequently Russia, who has always denied involvement in the downing of the jet.
MH17 crashed in Grabovo, Ukraine an area near the Russian border which at the time was under the control of pro-Russian militias.
The plane was shot down in the early stages of the Ukraine War, which began with the Russian annexation of Crimea – a military muscle-flexing exercise by President Vladimir Putin attempting to show off his strength to the West.
This and the anti-government ‘revolution’ that had shaken the capital Kiev for months, sparked protests by pro-Russian groups in the Donbass region in the east.
This escalated into a full-blown armed conflict between pro-Russian separatists, backed by Moscow, and the Ukrainian government which is still ongoing.