The federal government has announced it will take legal action against the state of Russia over the downing of MH17 in July 2014.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison agreed to the move in a call with his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte on Monday, arguing there was now “overwhelming evidence” that the missile strike was ultimately the responsibility of the Russian Federation, rather than just those individuals currently on trial.
The incident claimed the lives of 298 people, including 38 Australians, and three Russians were charged – Sergei Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov and Igor Girkin – alongside one Ukrainian, Leonid Kharchenko.
However, Foreign Minister Marise Payne highlighted the transfer of the Buk TELAR surface-to-air missile system responsible for the deaths back to Russia soon after the crash as evidence the blame goes higher than the individuals directly involved.
“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,” Senator Payne said.
“While we cannot take away the grief of those whose loved ones died as a result of Russia’s actions, the Australian government will pursue every available avenue to ensure Russia is held to account so that this horrific act never happens again.”
“The missile system belonged to the Russian Federation’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Military Brigade, and was accompanied by a trained Russian military crew.
“From the launch site, the Buk TELAR fired the missile that shot down Flight MH17, killing all 298 people on board.
“The missile could only have been fired by the trained Russian crew of the Buk TELAR, or at least by someone acting under their instruction, direction or control.
“The Buk missile system was returned to the Russian Federation shortly after the downing of Flight MH17.”
MH17 was shot down while flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and travelling over eastern Ukraine. Russian Separatists fighting Ukrainian forces following the annexation of Crimea were charged with firing the missile, but none have agreed to attend the Dutch court.
The men charged have questioned the claim the missiles were fired from a field near the Ukrainian town of Pervomaiskyi.