Russia withdraws from MH17 talks with Netherlands, Australia

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Russia said on Thursday it would withdraw from consultations with the Netherlands and Australia over the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which was shot down over Ukraine in 2014. The three countries have held discussions aimed at uncovering the cause of the disaster since 2018.

“Hostile acts by the Netherlands have made any continuation of the trilateral consultations and our participation senseless. Australia and the Netherlands have obviously not tried to understand what really happened in summer 2014, but rather just wanted to secure a confession from Russia and compensation for the victims’ relatives”, Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The plane was shot down with a Russian-made Buk missile by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, and resulted in the death of 298 civilians, two-thirds of which were Dutch. A Dutch court began criminal proceedings against them in March. Investigators say they have proof the Buk missile system came from a military base in Russia. Moscow has denied any involvement in the downing of the flight.

Three Russians and one Ukrainian are charged with multiple counts of murder over the downing of the plane. All suspects are believed to be in Russia.

Prosecutors said the four men are: Igor Girkin, a former colonel in Russia’s FSB intelligence service, Sergei Dubinsky, employed by Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency, Oleg Pulatov, allegedly a former soldier with GRU special forces, and Leonid Kharchenko, a Ukrainian national with no military background who led a combat unit as a commander in Eastern Ukraine.

If convicted, the suspects could face sentences of up to life in prison. However, they are unlikely to be extradited, as Russia’s constitution does not permit the extradition of its own nationals.

On Thursday, Moscow said it will continue its cooperation in the investigation, but “in a different format”.

Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok said that “The Netherlands greatly regrets this decision,” adding: “It is extremely painful for the survivors”.

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