Australia and the Netherlands have started joint legal action against the Russian Federation over the fatal 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. All 298 passengers and crew onboard the doomed flight were killed at the hands of the Russian military, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison claimed on Monday.
The Boeing 777 was shot from the skies on 17th July 2014 by a Buk-TELAR surface-to-air missile system which Australia claims was owned and operated by Russian forces. 196 Dutch citizens and 38 Australians were killed.
In separate statements, the Australian and Dutch governments said they launched the legal action in the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) after Russia unilaterally withdrew from negotiations on the matter last October.
Australia and Netherlands have formally held Russia responsible for the downing of MH17 under international law since October 2018.
“We cannot and will not allow the death of 298 people, including 196 Dutch nationals, to go unanswered. The current events in Ukraine underscore the vital importance of this,” commented the Dutch foreign minister Wopke Hoekstra on Monday.
“The government will continue to do everything in its power to call Russia to account for the downing of flight MH17 and to uphold the international legal order.”
Papers were filed with ICAO, a specialist body of the United Nations based in Montreal, Canada, earlier today. ICAO did not immediately comment on the development.
According to the Australian government, the Russian military transported their surface-to-air missile system to a field in eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists on the morning of the tragedy.
It was accompanied by a Russian crew who must have either fired the weapon themselves or instructed someone else to do so. Shortly after MH17 was shot from the sky, the missile system was returned to Russian control.
“The Russian Federation’s refusal to take responsibility for its role in the downing of Flight MH17 is unacceptable and the Australian Government has always said that it will not exclude any legal options in our pursuit of justice,” Morrison said on Monday.
“Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine and the escalation of its aggression underscores the need to continue our enduring efforts to hold Russia to account for its blatant violation of international law and the UN Charter, including threats to Ukraine’s sovereignty and airspace.”
Most airlines have avoided overflying eastern Ukraine since 2014 and more recently, overflights over all of Ukraine have been barred because of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of the country.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.