Netherlands, Australia hold Russia responsible in MH17 downing: Dutch cabinet

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THE HAGUE (Reuters) – The Netherlands said on Friday it held the Russian state responsible for what it called its role in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 in July 2014 that killed all 298 aboard.

FILE PHOTO: Dutch police officer Wilbert Paulissen, head of the National Crime Squad, is pictured next to a damaged missile as he presents interim results in the ongoing investigation of the 2014 MH17 crash that killed 298 people over eastern Ukraine, during a news conference by members of the Joint Investigation Team, comprising the authorities from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine, in Bunnik, Netherlands, May 24, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

A Dutch cabinet statement said a “possible” next step would be presenting the case to an international court or organization for their judgment, adding Australia shared its assessment of Russia’s role.

“We call on Russia to accept its responsibility and cooperate fully with the process to establish the truth and achieve justice for the victims of flight MH17,” Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said.

“The Netherlands and Australia have asked Russia today 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 flight MH17.”

MH17 was shot down over rebel-held territory in Eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 aboard including 28 Australians as it flew from Amsterdam en route to Kuala Lumpur.

FILE PHOTO: A damaged missile is displayed during a news conference by members of the Joint Investigation Team, comprising the authorities from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine who present interim results in the ongoing investigation of the 2014 MH17 crash that killed 298 people over eastern Ukraine, in Bunnik, Netherlands, May 24, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

Russia has always denied any involvement, and said on Thursday none of its missile launchers have ever entered Ukraine, despite photo evidence shown by prosecutors.

The cabinet made its announcement a day after an interim report by prosecutors investigating the plane’s destruction said the missile that shot it down was fired from a launcher in Russia’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade.

Prosecutors stopped short of saying who actually fired the fatal shot, but Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok told reporters on Friday the findings “point to direct involvement of Russia.”

Blok said that attempts to hold Russia responsible for the plane’s downing under international law would be a different, parallel process from the ongoing investigation by prosecutors seeking to establish individual criminal responsibility.

Reporting by Toby Sterling Editing by Hugh Lawson, William Maclean

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