Britain last night backed a decision by the Netherlands and Australia to hold Russia legally responsible for its role in the downing of passenger jet MH17.
The move comes almost four years after a missile strike blew the Malaysia Airlines flight out of the sky above Ukraine, killing all 298 on board.
A total of 196 of the victims were Dutch and 27 Australian, while ten were Britons.
Dutch prosecutor Fred Westerbeke, pictured, provided evidence of the BUK missile used to shoot down MH17 on July 17, 2014 over eastern Ukraine
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said yesterday: ‘State responsibility comes into play when states fail to uphold provisions of international law and that’s clearly the case.’
Australia and the Netherlands quickly gained support from the US, UK and the EU, putting further strain on tense relations between Moscow and the West.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called on Russia to co-operate fully with the investigation, adding: ‘The Kremlin believes it can act with impunity.
‘The Russian government must answer for its actions in relation to the downing of MH17. This is an egregious example of the Kremlin’s disregard for innocent life.’
Russia denies involvement in the downing of the Boeing 777 on July 17, 2014. The plane was flying 33,000ft above war-ravaged eastern Ukraine when it was torn apart by a missile fired from territory controlled by pro-Russian rebels.
The Boeing 777 passenger jet was shot down 100 miles east of Donetsk, Ukraine in July 2014
A Dutch-led team of investigators said on Thursday they had strong evidence that the Buk missile system that brought down the Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight came from a Russia-based military unit, the 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade based in the city of Kursk.
It was the most explicit link yet published by the investigators between Moscow and the downing of Flight MH17.
Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop called for international support for the legal initiative by her country and the Netherlands.
‘If military weapons can be deployed and then used to bring down civilian aircraft in what was essentially a war zone, then international security is at risk and we call on all countries to inform the Russian Federation that its conduct is unacceptable,’ she added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin last night again denied his country’s involvement. Asked at an economic forum in Saint Petersburg whether a Russian army missile was used, he said: ‘Of course not.’
Mr Putin added Moscow could not fully trust Dutch findings about the incident because Moscow had not been involved in the investigation.