The Dutch and Australian governments have said they plan to hold the Russian state legally responsible for downing Malaysia Airlines flight 17 and will demand compensation for the families of victims.
The Dutch cabinet said on Friday that the two countries ‘have asked Russia to enter a dialogue in order to come to a solution that does justice to the enormous suffering and damage caused’ by the downing of the jet.
The two countries may now move towards submitting the complex dossier to an international judge or organisation, it added.
It comes a day after investigators definitively linked the missile fired at the jet to a Russian military unit which was operating in Ukraine at the time. Russia warned that the investigation could not be trusted as it had not been involved in the research.
The Dutch cabinet announced on Friday that they will hold the Russian state legally responsible for the downing of MH17 alongside Australia, after investigators definitively linked the missile fired at the jet to a Moscow military unit
Investigators used a serial number found on the side of the BUK missile fired at the plane and linked that to a Russian military unit that was serving in Ukraine at the time
Investigators had previously shown that the missile came from Russia, but until yesterday had not been able to prove that it was actually fired by the Kremlin’s troops
All 298 passengers and crew aboard the flight from Amsterdam Schipol airport to Kuala Lumpur were killed when it was hit by the missile in July 2014.
More than two thirds of those killed were Dutch, while 43 Malaysians and 27 Australians also died.
‘Holding a country responsible is a complex legal process,’ the Dutch cabinet said.
Investigators used a serial number written on part of the missile which was recovered from the crash site and studied photos of a military convoy to make the link to Moscow.
While investigators had known that the missile was Russian made, they had previously not been able to determine if it had been fired by Moscow’s forces.
All 298 people on board the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were killed, with Dutch and Australians making up two of the largest groups
Hit: This graphic shows how the BUK missile hit the passenger jet over Ukraine
‘The downing of flight MH17 caused unimaginable suffering,’ said Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok a day after the latest findings from the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the disaster.
‘On the basis of the JIT’s conclusions, the Netherlands and Australia are now convinced that Russia is responsible for the deployment of the BUK installation that was used to down MH17,’ he added.
‘The government is now taking the next step by formally holding Russia accountable.’
He said the Netherlands and Australia would seek financial damages “but also compensation in form of cooperation.”
The government said state liability was invoked in cases where nations violate international law, but warned it was a ‘complex legal process and there are several ways to do this.’
‘This is the legal avenue that the Netherlands and Australia have now chosen to pursue,’ the statement added.
Investigators used footage of a Russia military convoy crossing the border into Ukraine in their evidence, and in particular these markings on the side of a BUK launcher
The launcher was seen going into Ukraine before returning several days later with one missile gone. Investigators are now trying to find out who gave the order to fire it
Parts of the missile had been seen before, but on Thursday investigators displayed parts of the engine casing and exhaust system, including the unique serial number and Russian writing.
The missile’s serial number and Cyrillic writing – ‘Opera Izdelia’ and ‘Data Sborki 15:13:86’ which means ‘Device support, Assembly date 15:13:86’ – had given the team a ‘fingerprint’ identifying it and where it was made.
Prosecutors showed photos and videos of a truck convoy carrying the system as it crossed the border from Russia to Ukraine. It crossed back several days later with one missile missing.
The vehicles had serial numbers and other markings that were unique to the 53rd brigade, an anti-aircraft unit based in the western Russian city of Kursk, they said.
Investigator were able to link the missile found in the wreckage with the missile launch system.
‘The Buk that was used came from the Russian army, the 53rd brigade,’ Chief Dutch Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said. ‘We know that was used, but the people in charge of this Buk, we don’t know.’
Investigators appealed to the public to come forward and help identify members of the crew who operated the missile and determine how high up the chain of command the order originated.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, rejected the accusations.
He said on Friday that Russia has been barred from the investigation and thus can’t trust its results.
He also charged that Ukraine contributed to the tragedy by failing to ban civilian air traffic over the war zone.
Moscow rejected Thursday’s accusations as well, saying no such weapon had ever crossed the Russian-Ukrainian border.
The Russian foreign ministry denounced what it called an attempt to ‘discredit Russia in the eyes of the international community’.
But investigators, who painstaking recreated the BUK missile system’s route from Kursk across the border into rebel-held eastern Ukraine, said they stood by their findings.
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,’ top Dutch investigator Wilbert Paulissen said.
‘The 53rd Brigade forms part of the Russian armed forces,’ he told reporters Thursday.
Investigation officials have not yet said who actually fired the missile after it arrived in rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine, stressing that the investigation continues.
The lost children of Flight MH17: Youngest victims of 2014 tragedy are seen smiling in family snapshots
When Flight MH17 was shot down, 298 people lost their lives – 80 of them were children.
Their lives ended as they were heading off on holidays or returning home from breaks, when the plane was downed by the Russian military in July 2014.
A Malaysian family of six – including four children aged 13 to 19 – were killed as they journeyed home together.
Evie Maslin, 10, from Perth in Australia, was flying with her brothers and grandfather to get back for school
Nick Norris was bringing grandsons Mo Maslin (left), 12, and Otis, eight, home after a holiday in Amsterdam
Victims: Marnix van den Hende (left), 12, and his elder brother Piers (right), 15, were killed aboard Flight MH17
Tragic: Their younger sister Margaux van den Hende, eight, also died in the horrific crash on Thursday
The three Maslin children from Perth; Mo, 12, Evie, ten, and Otis, eight, died with their grandfather as they were returning home after family holiday in Europe.
Their parents had decided to stay in Amsterdam for a few extra days and survived their children.
The Van Den Hende siblings Piers, 15, Marnix, 12 and Margaux, eight, were travelling back to Australia with their parents.
Also among the dead were the sons of British banker Andrew Hoare; Friso, 12, and Jasper, 15, who were heading to a holiday in Borneo.
Malaysian victim Afruz Jiee, 13 (left), died alongside his brothers and sister including Afzal, 17 (right)
Tragic: Afif Jiee, 19 (left), and his younger sister Marsha Jiee, 15 (right) were flying home to Malaysia
Sisters: Jinte Wals (left) and her sister Amel (right) died alongside their two brothers and parents
Kaela Goes, 21 months, died with her parents flying home to Malaysia after visiting relatives in Holland
Flying out for a holiday: Dutch sisters Tess and Liv Trugg were en-route to a holiday in Bali with their parents
Another British father John Allen, 44, died with his Dutch wife Sandra and their three sons Ian, Julian and Christopher, aged eight to 16, as they travelled to Indonesia.
Three babies were among the dead, including 21-month-old Kaela Goes, killed with her parents as they flew home to Malaysia after visiting relatives in Holland.
Two families from the same street in the Netherlands were also killed.
Tess and Liv Trugg, aged ten and eight, and their neighbour Sem Wels, ten, died with their parents en route to a holiday in Bali.
Five-year-old Martin Paulissen and his sister Sri, three, died with their parents as they travelled to visit their grandmother’s grave in Indonesia.