Russia Halts Talks On MH17, Dutch Say They 'Regret' Kremlin Move
By RFE/RL's Russian Service October 15, 2020
MOSCOW -- Russia says it has decided to halt consultations with Australia and the Netherlands on the downing of a Malaysia Airlines passenger flight over eastern Ukraine more than six years ago, after the Dutch government took Russia to court in July for its alleged role in the tragedy.
"Such unfriendly moves by the Netherlands make further trilateral consultations and our participation in them senseless," Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on October 15.
Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said in a tweet that the Netherlands "greatly regrets this decision. It is extremely painful for the survivors"
MH17 was shot down on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur by a Russian-made Buk surface-to-air missile fired from territory controlled by Moscow-backed separatists in the east of Ukraine. Nearly two-thirds of the 298 victims were Dutch nationals.
Following a six-year international investigation, prosecutors argued that the aircraft was shot down by a Buk system fired by Russia-backed separatist fighters who had acquired it from a Russian military base on the border between the two countries.
The findings have been corroborated or supported by evidence gathered by journalists and independent investigators, such as the British-based group Bellingcat.
The four suspects -- Russians Sergei Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov, and Igor Girkin, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko -- are being tried in absentia by court in The Hague for involvement in the tragedy.
The relatives of at least 65 Dutch victims in 2018 filed a complaint at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
The Dutch Foreign Ministry announced on July 10 that the government had filed a complaint against Russia with the Strasbourg-based court in a bid to offer "maximum support to these individual cases."
In its statement, Russia's Foreign Ministry said Moscow agreed in 2018 to hold trilateral consultations to "help establishâ€¦the true causes" of the crash."
"However, in all likelihood, Australia and the Netherlands did not seek to understand what actually happenedâ€¦but were only aimed at getting Russia to plead guilty and receive compensation for the relatives of the victims."
Moscow has denied any involvement in the conflict in parts of eastern Ukraine and has offered several possible theories about how MH17 was blown out of the sky, including that it was shot down by a Ukrainian Air Force jet or by Ukrainian ground forces using a Buk system.
The tragedy caused an international outcry and deepened tensions between Moscow and the West following Russia's seizure of Crimea and support for the militants in their fight against Kyiv's forces after pro-European protests pushed Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych from power.
With reporting by Reuters
Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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