28 February, 2024
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‘Strong indications’ Vladimir Putin supplied missile that downed MH17


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There are “strong indications” Russian President Vladimir Putin supplied the missile that was used to shoot down flight MH17 in 2014, according to investigators.

The Malaysian Airlines flight was hit while flying over eastern Ukraine, killing 298 people on board including 38 Australian residents and citizens.

International prosecutors say there was evidence from phone intercepts that Mr Putin had supplied the weaponry to Moscow-backed separatists.

However, they said proof of Mr Putin’s and other Russian officials’ involvement was not concrete enough to lead to a criminal conviction.

There was no suggestion Mr Putin ordered the plane to be shot down.

A Joint Investigations Team involving five countries released its findings on Wednesday (local time), saying they would end their probe.

Russia has denied any involvement with the downing of the civilian airliner.

“The investigation has now reached its limit,” prosecutor Digna van Boetzelaer told a news conference in The Hague.

“The findings are insufficient for the prosecution of new suspects.”

The wreckage of the Malaysian airliner which had been travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Photo: Getty

Phone intercept points to Putin

Prosecutors said they could not identify the specific soldiers responsible for firing the missile system that downed the plane, which came from Russia’s 53rd brigade in Kursk.

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

In addition, they played a 2017 conversation between Mr Putin himself and the Russian-appointed chief administrator of Ukraine’s Luhansk province in which they discussed the military situation and a prisoner exchange.

The reconstructed wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in the Netherlands. Photo: Getty

In November, a Dutch court convicted two former Russian intelligence agents and a Ukrainian separatist leader of murder for helping arrange the Russian BUK missile system.

The three men, who were tried in absentia, remain at large.

Moscow described the verdicts as “scandalous” and politically motivated”.

At the time the plane was shot down, Ukrainian forces were fighting Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk province.

While Russia had annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014, it denied military involvement in fighting in Donetsk at that time.

But as part of the conviction of the three men in November, the Dutch court ruled that the Russian government had in fact had “overall control” of separatist forces in Donetsk starting from May 2014.

Piet Ploeg, who heads a foundation representing victims, said he was disappointed that the investigation had ended but was glad prosecutors had laid out their evidence for Mr Putin’s involvement.

“We can’t do a lot with it, Putin can’t be prosecuted, he said.

“We wanted to know who was ultimately responsible and that’s clear.”

Mr Ploeg’s brother, his brother’s wife, and his nephew died on MH17.

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