Putin ‘supplied’ MH17 missile – investigators

The wreckage of MH17Reuters

There are strong indications that Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to supply the missile that downed flight MH17 in 2014, international investigators say.

The aircraft was hit by a Russian-made missile over Ukraine, killing nearly 300 people.

Prosecutors said there is evidence that Mr Putin decided to provide the missile to Moscow-backed separatists.

There is no suggestion that Mr Putin ordered the aircraft be shot down.

In November, a Dutch court found three men – two Russians and a Ukrainian – guilty of murder in absentia for their part in the downing of MH17.

The prosecutors said on Wednesday that they had exhausted all leads and could not continue with any more criminal proceedings.

The Boeing 777 was flying from the Dutch capital to Kuala Lumpur when it was hit by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile in July 2014 during a conflict between pro-Russia rebels and Ukrainian forces in the Donbas region of Ukraine.

Of the 298 passengers and crew, 196 were Dutch while many of the other passengers came from Malaysia, Australia, the UK, Belgium and other countries.

In a statement, the Joint Investigation Team said the court ruled that Moscow had “overall control” over the Donetsk People’s Republic, which controlled the area in July 2014.

It cited recorded telephone conversations where Russian officials said that the decision to provide military support “rests with the President”.

“There is concrete information that the separatists’ request was presented to the president, and that this request was granted,” it said.

But it adds that is not known whether the request “explicitly mentions” the system used to shoot down MH17.

“Although we speak of strong indications, the high bar of complete and conclusive evidence is not reached,” investigators said.

“Furthermore, the President enjoys immunity in his position as Head of State.”

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The Joint Investigation Team is made up of members from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine – the countries worst affected by the shooting down of MH17.

The team wanted to prove the identities of the missile’s crew members, and who was in the chain of command, but admitted that was not possible for now.

Russia denies all involvement and dismissed last year’s Dutch verdict as “scandalous” and politically motivated.

Piet Ploeg lost his brother, his brother’s wife, and nephew on MH17. He said he was glad prosecutors had laid out their evidence for Mr Putin’s involvement.

“We can’t do a lot with it, Putin can’t be prosecuted,” he told Reuters. “We wanted to know who was ultimately responsible and that’s clear.”

In January, the European Court of Human Rights confirmed it would hear a separate Dutch case against Russia over the downing of MH17.

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