Russia’s Putin likely signed off on missile supply in Malaysia Airlines shoot-down, investigators say
An international team of investigators announced Wednesday that there are “strong indications” Russian President Vladimir Putin was the person who approved the supply of anti-aircraft weaponry to Ukrainian separatists who shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014, killing all 298 onboard.
The Joint Investigation Team, made up of experts from the Netherlands, Australia, Malaysia, Belgium and Ukraine, has been examining the crew of the missile system and those who ordered its deployment in Ukraine.
MH17 was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia on July 17, 2014, when it was shot out of the sky.
Dutch prosecutors said in their summary of investigation findings Wednesday that “there are strong indications that the Russian president decided on supplying” a Buk missile system to Ukrainian separatists. A Buk system from the Russian military’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade, based in the city of Kursk, was used to bring down MH17.
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But prosecutor Digna van Boetzelaer said that without Russian cooperation in the probe, “the investigation has now reached its limit. All leads have been exhausted.”
The announcement comes nearly three months after a Dutch court convicted two Russians and a Ukrainian rebel for their roles in shooting down the plane. One Russian was acquitted by the court.
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None of the suspects appeared for the trial and it was unclear if the three who were found guilty of multiple murders will ever serve their sentences.
The convictions and the court’s finding that the surface-to-air Buk missile came from a Russian military base were seen as a clear indication that Moscow had a role in the tragedy. Russia has always denied involvement. The Russian Foreign Ministry accused the court in November of bowing to pressure from Dutch politicians, prosecutors and the news media.
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The convictions held that Moscow was in overall control in 2014 over the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, the separatist area of eastern Ukraine where the missile was launched.
As well as the criminal trial that was held in the Netherlands, the Dutch and Ukrainian governments are suing Russia at the European Court of Human Rights over its alleged role in the downing of MH17.
The Online News 72h contributed to this report.