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Dutch probe implicates Putin in the downing of a Malaysian airliner in 2014


Dutch prosecutors said on Wednesday it was likely that Russian President Vladimir Putin approved a decision to supply long-range anti-aircraft missile systems to pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine before they shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July 2014, killing all 298 passengers died. and crew members.

While prosecutors said they had documented “strong evidence” of Putin’s direct role in the decision to send missiles, they said their evidence was “not concrete enough” for a new prosecution.

In November, two former Russian state security agents and a Ukrainian separatist leader were convicted of murder in the case by a Dutch court, though they were never arrested or extradited. The Dutch authorities are in charge of the investigation, because the flight started in Amsterdam.

The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) led by the Dutch had previously determined that a Russian-supplied Buk surface-to-air missile hit the Boeing 777 en route to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014, killing all passengers and crew.

At a press conference in The Hague on Wednesday, the JIT said its conclusions about Putin’s role were based on taped telephone conversations in which Russian officials said the decision to provide military support to the separatists could only be taken by the Russian president.

“There is concrete information that the separatists’ request has been presented to the president and that this request has been granted,” the researchers said, adding, “It is not known whether the request explicitly mentions a Buk system.”

The team noted that despite the strong evidence “the high bar of complete and conclusive evidence has not been reached”. Prosecutors said they had exhausted their leads and no further criminal charges would follow.

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In the November verdict, a Dutch court convicted the three suspects of murder, although none are in custody. A fourth suspect was acquitted. The verdict determined that Moscow bore responsibility for the downing of the plane.

The Kremlin has long denied any involvement in the jet’s destruction and has refused to hand over the defendants or cooperate with investigators. It has also falsely claimed that Russia was not a party to the conflict that unfolded in Donbas in 2014.

However, the court found that Moscow financed and armed separatist forces in Donetsk and generally controlled the breakaway area of ​​Luhansk and its authorities.

Dutch investigators said they had analyzed all available telecommunications, radar and satellite data to determine what happened to the plane and to determine the role of the three convicted men in delivering the missile system to the launch site in Pervomaiskyi .

“The purpose of this investigation was to find out the truth, and I think we have come further than we ever imagined in 2014,” said Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor Digna van Boetzelaer. “The findings we have discovered about Russian involvement at the highest level may play an important role in proceedings where the liability of this state is at stake.”

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But given the limited evidence, the investigation was unable to identify the specific soldiers responsible for firing the missile that downed the plane, which came from the Russian 53rd Brigade in Kursk. Investigators also failed to determine what information the separatists had about the plane when they fired.

“The JIT investigated everything it could without the cooperation of the Russian authorities and without endangering people’s safety,” says Andy Kraag, head of the National Investigation Department in the Netherlands, according to a transcript. “Any further evidence should be sought in the Russian Federation. And for that, the JIT depends on the cooperation of the Russian or Russian authorities [insider] to give evidence. Our door remains open to them.”

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