MPs demand investigation into Ukraine's role in MH17

MH17 wreckage - Dutch Safety Board report (Photo: NL Times/Zachary Newmark)MH17 wreckage - Dutch Safety Board report (Photo: NL Times/Zachary Newmark)

The Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, wants a further investigation into the role Ukraine played in the MH17 disaster, focused specifically on the country not closing the airspace above eastern Ukraine despite fighting in the area. A motion filed by CDA and SP to that extent received the support of all parties that attended a debate on the matter on Tuesday evening, NOS reports.

According to CDA parliamentarian Chris van Dam, this investigation must be launched as soon as possible. "Memories are fading, data is being lost", he said, arguing that this is important for the victims' surviving relatives. "It's about insight for the bereaved, knowing if something could have been prevented, understanding what happened."

Minister Stef Blok of Foreign Affairs was reluctant about such an investigation. "We don't see any reason for it legally", he said in the Kamer. An investigation will not be easy, because it will also need Russian cooperation, he said. "It is also about their airspace." But in the end he did not object to making an inventory of the possibilities of such a fact finding investigation.

In 2015 the Dutch Safety Board ruled that Ukraine should have closed the airspace above the conflict zone in the east of the country. If that had happened, flight MH17 would have taken another route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and would not have been shot down, saving the lives of the 298 people on board. But so far the Dutch government has taken no steps against Ukraine. Due to the international investigation into the disaster, the government considers it important to maintain good relations with the country.

The Kamer also discussed Ukraine transferring an important suspect in the MH17 investigation, Vladimir Tsemach, to Russia in the context of a prisoners exchange last month. The Kamer was astonished when Blok revealed that he hasn't discussed the matter with his Russian counterpart yet, as the exchange likely means that Tsemach will never appear in court. The Kamer assumed that the Dutch government will take this up with Russia at the highest level, but in reality only the Russian envoy in the Netherlands was called on.

Blok did not contact Moscow, or speak to his Russian counterpart at the annual UN meeting in New York last week. In the debate on Tuesday, Blok said that he was waiting for the right moment for such a meeting. And that the meeting will be held in consultation with the Public Prosecution Service and the Joint Investigation Team.