29 February, 2024
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Albanese vows justice for MH17 victims as probe ends


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Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has vowed to keep pursuing justice for the victims of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 after international prosecutors concluded their investigation without further convictions.

Prosecutors in the Netherlands said there were “strong indications” Russian President Vladimir Putin gave his consent to the use of the weaponry that took down the airliner in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

However, proof of his involvement and that of other Russian officials is not concrete enough to merit criminal conviction and their probe will end without further prosecutions.

Russia has denied involvement in the attack, in which all 298 passengers and crew were killed, including 38 Australians.

Mr Albanese said those responsible should be held to account.

“The shooting down of MH17 was an act of terrorism that had an impact here in Australia … and we will continue to pursue these issues with every avenue at our disposal,” he said in Canberra on Thursday.

“The travesty of MH17 is an issue in which (Putin) should be held to account.”

The prime minister described Mr Putin as reprehensible.

“This is a guy who runs an authoritarian regime that doesn’t care about human rights, that doesn’t care about devastation of communities, whether it be Ukraine, whether it be the oppression of his own citizens,” he said.

In a joint statement, Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the Dutch findings had “unequivocally and conclusively” established Russian responsibility for the downing of the flight.

“Australia remains committed to pursuing our ongoing case with the Netherlands in the International Civil Aviation Organisation to hold Russia to account for its role in the downing of the civilian aircraft,” they said.

Two former Russian intelligence agents and a Ukrainian separatist leader were convicted of murder in a Dutch court in November for helping arrange the Russian BUK missile system used to shoot the plane down.

Tried in absentia, they remain at large.

Although Ukrainian forces were fighting Russian-backed separatists in the eastern Donetsk province at the time of the attack, Russia denies military involvement in the conflict.

The Dutch court found the Russian government had “overall control” of separatist forces in Donetsk from May 2014.

However, investigators say they could not identify those specifically responsible for firing the missile system that struck the plane, which came from Russia’s 53rd brigade in Kursk.

They cited a 2014 phone intercept between Russian officials as evidence Putin’s approval was necessary before a request for equipment made by the separatists could be granted.

The Netherlands will continue to “call the Russian Federation to account” in international proceedings, which include complaints before the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the European Court of Human Rights.

Senator Wong and Mr Dreyfus said the conclusion of the Dutch-led international investigation into the case would no doubt be distressing for many.

“Our thoughts remain with those who lost their lives, their families and loved ones and we acknowledge the distress they will be feeling with this announcement,” they said.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham said Russia’s actions in relation to MH17 had been disgraceful.

“Tragically Russia has always sought to avoid any engagement in the proper processes that have been undertaken by authorities in the Netherlands and elsewhere to try to bring people to justice for this,” he told ABC radio.


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