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Dutch, Australians: Russia Responsible for Flight MH17 Shootdown

FILE - In this Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015 file photo, the reconstructed wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 is put on display during a press conference in Gilze-Rijen, central Netherlands. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 broke up high over Eastern Ukraine killing all 298 people on board. Any suspects in the …
AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File

The Netherlands and Australia are holding the government of Russia legally responsible for providing pro-Moscow separatists the missile system used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 people onboard, including an American citizen.

In a statement issued Friday, the Dutch government noted that the Netherlands and Australia “hold Russia responsible for its part in the downing,” the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency reports.

Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok reportedly declared:

On the basis of the [Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team] conclusions, the Netherlands and Australia are now convinced that Russia is responsible for the deployment of the [Russian missile system] BUK installation that was used to down MH17.

The government is now taking the next step by formally holding Russia accountable.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has joined calls for Russia to take responsibility for its role, with the American ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, saying Moscow engaged in an “act of terrorism.”

Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, said in a statement issued Friday:

We strongly support the decisions by the Netherlands and Australia to call Russia to account for its role in the July 2014 downing of Malaysia Flight #17 (MH-17) over eastern Ukraine and the horrific deaths of 298 civilians. It is time for Russia to acknowledge its role in the shooting down of MH-17 and to cease its callous disinformation campaign.

Nauert accused “Russia’s aggression in Ukraine since 2014″ of being behind “more than 10,300 conflict-related deaths, including those lost in the MH-17 tragedy.”

Echoing findings by the U.S. intelligence community, the international Joint Investigative Team (JIT) announced its findings Thursday that pro-Moscow separatists in war-ravaged eastern Ukraine used a Russian army missile system to shoot down the Boeing 777 when it was flying from Amsterdam to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014.

Alluding to the missile, the State Department spokeswoman said, “It was brought into sovereign Ukrainian territory from Russia, was fired from territory controlled by Russia and Russia-led forces in eastern Ukraine, and was then returned to Russian territory.”

The intentional probe was carried out by prosecutors from Australia, Malaysia, Belgium, Ukraine, and the Netherlands.

There were multiple nationalities onboard the downed aircraft, including Australians. The vast majority of the passengers — about two-thirds — were Dutch, including an individual who held dual American-Dutch citizenship.

International investigators determined that the “Buk” missile system used to down the passenger plane originated from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade, based in the western Russian city of Kursk.

In a statement issued Thursday, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop proclaimed:

A sophisticated weapon belonging to the Russian Army was dispatched and used to shoot down a civilian aircraft should be of grave international concern. That a We are discussing these findings with our partners and considering our options.

Russia has repeatedly denied involvement, blaming Ukraine instead.

While investigators accused Russia of refusing to cooperate with the international probe into the incident, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, indicated “that Russia has been barred from the international investigation and thus can’t trust its results,” the Associated Press (AP) reports.

The Netherlands has provided “no facts” to support the findings and was merely speculating “to achieve their own political goals,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in the wake of the JIT accusations, according to Reuters.

Lavrov added that he had been informed by a Dutch minister that “they have practically no doubt that the BUK [missile] came from Russia. I asked him about facts proving these claims. He did not give me any facts.”

AP reports:

The Netherlands and Australia said Friday that they are holding Russia legally responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was shot down over war-ravaged eastern Ukraine nearly four years ago, killing all 298 people on board.

The announcement by the foreign ministers of both countries came a day after international investigators announced that the missile system that brought down the Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight came from a Russia-based military unit. They displayed photos and videos from social media tracking a large convoy of rocket launchers through Russia.

Britain’s foreign minister Boris Johnson said that Moscow “must answer for its actions,” Reuters reports.

“The Kremlin believes it can act with impunity,” Johnson declared in a statement. “The Russian government must now answer for its actions in relation to the downing of MH17.”

“This is an egregious example of the Kremlin’s disregard for innocent life,” he added. Of the passengers killed in the incident, ten were British.

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