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Australia and the Netherlands launch a new case against Russia over 2014 jet downing

Australian and Dutch investigators examine a piece of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 plane, in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk region in August 2014.
Dmitry Lovetsky
Australian and Dutch investigators examine a piece of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 plane, in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk region in August 2014.

Australia and the Netherlands are pursuing a new legal case against Russia for its alleged role in the downing of a commercial flight in 2014, citing the continued need to hold Moscow accountable following its invasion of Ukraine.

The two governments initiated legal proceedings in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on Monday, according to a statement from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The case centers on the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

The passenger jet crashed over Ukraine on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in July 2014, killing all 298 people on board — most of whom were from the Netherlands.

International investigators concluded that the flight was shot down by a Russian Buk missile that had been transferred into rebel-held eastern Ukraine, though Moscow has repeatedly denied involvement.

Australia and the Netherlands have formally held Russia responsible since 2018. Morrison said that Russia unilaterally withdrew from negotiations in October 2020 and has refused multiple requests to return to the table ever since.

"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.

He noted that Dutch prosecutors are also trying four individual suspects in absentia. The Netherlands has also sued Russia at the European Court of Human Rights.

The Dutch government said in a separate statement that the countries have also notified the U.N. Security Council of their latest move.

"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," said Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra. "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."

Dutch officials said this development is unrelated to Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine. Instead, they painted it as the carefully prepared and recently finalized result of consultations between Australia and the Netherlands, after Russia pulled out of talks. But Morrison drew a more direct connection between the two.

"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," he said.

This story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog.

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Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.