The international team of prosecutors investigating the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 has concluded the missile that hit the plane was likely supplied with the approval of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It comes after three men – who are yet to be found and arrested – were given life prison sentences last year for carrying out the attack.
MH17 was shot down by a missile over eastern Ukraine in July 2014 while flying from the Netherlands to Malaysia. It crashed in Ukraine near the Russian border and killed all 298 people on board, including 38 Australian citizens and residents. An investigation at the time concluded the missile had been fired by Russian-backed rebels in an area near eastern Ukraine. The Australian Government and others have held Russia responsible, which Russia denies.
Last year, three men were sentenced to life in prison by a Dutch court for carrying out the strike. The court found there was “no doubt” it was fired from an area of Ukraine controlled by pro Russia forces. A fourth man was acquitted after the court found he had “no active or crucial involvement”. The life sentences will not necessarily be carried out as the three men have not been arrested. An international warrant for their arrest has been outstanding since 2019.
The investigators now say they have found evidence Putin ordered the provision of missiles to the Russian-backed rebels. The suggestion is that Putin provided the missile that hit the plane (not that he ordered the plane to be fired at). However, a trial will not proceed, partly because investigators say they have been hampered by Russia and are unable to gather “conclusive” evidence, and partly because Putin is immune from prosecution as a Head of State.
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong acknowledged the end of the investigation and reiterated Australia’s view that Russia was “unequivocally and conclusively responsible” for the downing of the plane. “Today’s announcement will 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,” Wong said.