Netherlands, Australia met with Russia on MH17 accountability this month

Earlier this month the Netherlands and Australia had a first meeting with Russia about the country's liability in the MH17 disaster, Minister Stef Blok of Foreign Affairs and his Australian counterpart Marise Payne revealed in a press conference in Australia. Both Ministers stressed that they are doing everything in their power to get justice to the victims of the disaster, NOS reports.

In May last year the Netherlands and Australia officially held Russia accountable for its role in the disaster - providing the missile used to shoot down the Malaysia Airlines plane over eastern Ukraine. What was said in the first meeting with Russia, the Ministers did not reveal. Blok pointed out that confidentiality is crucial at this stage. Where the meeting took place, was also not disclosed. 

In February it became clear that the Netherlands and Australia had established diplomatic contacts to talk to Russia about its accountability. Then a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that he had good hope that they will meet with the Russians soon.

During his visit to Australia, Blok placed a wreath at the MH17 memorial and he will also meet with relatives of the Australian victims of the disaster. After Australia he will travel to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to do the same. 

Russia's so-called state liability is independent from the criminal investigation into those responsible for shooting down flight MH17. That investigation is being conducted by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which is composed of the police and judicial services of all the countries affected by the disaster - the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine. 

Flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17th, 2014. All 298 people on board, including 196 Dutch and 38 Australians, were killed. Investigation by the Dutch Safety Board and the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) so far revealed that the Malaysian Airlines flight was shot down by a BUK missile system from the 53rd Anti-aircraft Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces, fired from a field in Ukraine that was under the control of pro-Russian separatists at the time.

The JIT tracked a convoy of nearly 50 military vehicles, including the BUK that shot down MH17, from a 53rd Brigade parking area in Kursk to the border of Ukraine between June 23rd and 25th, 2014 - a few weeks before MH17 was shot down. Australia and the Netherlands officially held Russia accountable for its role in the MH17 disaster - providing the missile that shot down the plane - in May last year. 

In September Russia held a press conference in which the country said that the BUK missile was indeed made in Russia, but was in Ukrainian hands at the time of the disaster. Russia has been pointing the finger to Ukraine since the disaster happened. In October the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it is willing to discuss MH17 liability with the Netherlands, "partly with the goal of looking professionally at the responsibility of Ukraine".

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