Netherlands, Australia hold Russia liable for downing MH17

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In this July 17, 2014 file photo, people walk amongst the debris at the crash site of a passenger plane near the village of Grabovo, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
In this July 17, 2014 file photo, people walk amongst the debris at the crash site of a passenger plane near the village of Grabovo, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

The Hague, Netherlands (AP) — The Netherlands and Australia said Friday that they are holding Russia legally responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was shot down over war-ravaged eastern Ukraine nearly four years ago, killing all 298 people on board.

The announcement by the foreign ministers of both countries came a day after international investigators announced that the missile system that brought down the Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight came from a Russia-based military unit. They displayed photos and videos from social media tracking a large convoy of rocket launchers through Russia.

Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said that following that conclusion, “the government is now taking the next step by formally holding Russia accountable.”

“The Netherlands and Australia today asked Russia to enter into talks aimed at finding a solution that would do justice to the tremendous suffering and damage caused by the downing of MH17,” Blok said in a statement. “A possible next step is to present the case to an international court or organization for their judgment.”

Russia denies involvement in the July 17, 2014, missile strike that blew the Boeing 777 out of the sky at 33,000 feet (about 10,000 meters) over war-ravaged eastern Ukraine.

Bodies, debris and burning wreckage were strewn over a field of sunflowers near the rebel-held village of Hrabove in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Russian border, where fighting had been raging for months.

The father of one of the passengers welcomed the move.

“This is great news,” said Hans de Borst, who lost his daughter, Elsemiek. “I understand why the government waited, but now the evidence is clear.”

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called for support from the international community for the move.

“This represents a threat to international security,” she said. “If military weapons can be deployed and then used to bring down civilian aircraft in what was essentially a war zone, then international security is at risk and we call on all countries to inform the Russian Federation that its conduct is unacceptable.”