Published on : 02/08/2023 – 22:22
International investigators say there are “strong indications” that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally approved the supply of the missile that shot down the MH17 plane over Ukraine in 2014, killing 298 people on board.
No formal evidence but “strong indications”. Russian President Vladimir Putin likely approved the supply of the missile that shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014, international investigators said on Wednesday.
However, after eight years of investigations, these investigators have announced the suspension of their investigations, since Vladimir Putin enjoys immunity as head of state and there is not enough concrete evidence to prosecute. other suspects.
The Malaysia Airlines plane was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was hit by a Russian-made missile on July 17, 2014, over the part of eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russian rebels , causing the death of the 298 people on board.
The investigators’ announcement comes less than three months after the conviction by a Dutch court of two Russians and a Ukrainian, tried in their absence for their role in the crash.
“There are strong indications that a decision has been taken at presidential level, by President Putin, to supply the DPR (Donetsk People’s Republic) with the Buk TELAR missile system,” Dutch prosecutor Digna van Boetzelaer said. , at a press conference in The Hague.
“Although we are talking about strong indications, the threshold of complete and conclusive evidence is not met,” she added.
The suspension of the investigation is a “bitter disappointment” but “we will continue to hold the Russian Federation to account for its role in this tragedy”, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Twitter.
Moscow has denied any involvement in the plane’s downing and called the Dutch court’s verdict in November “scandalous” and politically motivated.
A stalled investigation
But according to the Joint International Investigation Team (JIT) which includes representatives from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine – the countries most affected by the crash -, the chain of command upstream of the drama is clear.
Russian officials even postponed the decision to send weapons to Ukrainian separatists because Vladimir Putin was at a Normandy landings commemoration in France in June 2014, investigators said.
During the press conference, investigators released an intercepted phone call from an adviser saying that the delay had occurred “because there is only one who decides (…), the one who is currently at a peak in France”.
Other officials, such as Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, lacked the necessary decision-making power and “it was ultimately the president’s decision”, investigators said.
However, the investigation is now at a standstill given the lack of cooperation from Moscow and the lack of witnesses ready to come forward. “All leads have now been exhausted, the investigation is therefore suspended,” Digna van Boetzelaer said.
“The President of the Russian Federation enjoys, at the very least, immunity under international law given his position as head of state,” explained the prosecutor. Once he’s gone, “we can look at what’s next,” she added.
Disappointment of families of victims
Among the victims of the disaster, which sparked international outrage and sanctions against Russia, were 196 Dutch nationals, 43 Malaysians and 38 Australians.
The families of the victims said they were disappointed by the decision to stop the investigation.
“We were hoping for more, but weren’t really counting on it,” said Piet Ploeg, president of the MH17 foundation, who lost his brother, sister-in-law and nephew.
Investigators said they felt they got more than they thought possible in 2014.
“Would we have liked to go further? Yes, of course,” said Andy Kraag, head of the Dutch national criminal investigation department, adding that “the answer remains in Russia.”
The investigation is not closed and can be reopened in the event of new elements and the evidence gathered could also be used by other courts, such as the International Criminal Court, underlined the investigators.
Source: France 24