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Australia Launches Legal Action Against Russia Over Downed Flight MH17

Rachel Lang

Published 
| Last updated 

Australia Launches Legal Action Against Russia Over Downed Flight MH17

Australia and the Netherlands have launched legal action with Russia over the downed 2014 flight MH17.

The move has been hailed as a major step forward in the 'fight for truth, justice and accountability' for those killed.

All 298 people on board the plane, which included 38 Australian citizens and residents, died when a Russian-made missile hit the aircraft in 2014. 

Legal proceedings are the latest move following a trial in the Netherlands, where prosecutors called for the life sentences of four suspects

What was left of flight MH17, scattered across the fields of eastern Ukraine, 60 km east of the Ukrainian-Russian borderCredit: ITAR-TASS News Agency/Alamy Stock Photo
What was left of flight MH17, scattered across the fields of eastern Ukraine, 60 km east of the Ukrainian-Russian borderCredit: ITAR-TASS News Agency/Alamy Stock Photo

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said legal proceedings were the next step to hold Russia to account.

"This is an important step in the fight for truth, justice and accountability for all of the victims of MH17, including the 38 who called Australia home," she said. 

Both Australia and the Netherlands maintain that Russia was behind the attack on the downed plane.

As a result, they have initiated legal proceedings against the Russian Federation in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), after previous talks soured.

ICAO is a specialised agency of the United Nations that is 'empowered to consider serious breaches of international law', the Foreign Minister said.

Russia, the Netherlands, and Australia had previously been in talks following the aeronautical disaster, but Russia withdrew from negotiations in 2020 and refused to return.

Despite repeated requests from Australia and the Netherlands to reignite the discussion, Russia ceased all contact on the matter.

In a joint statement released Monday (March 14) by Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Attorney-General Michaelia Cash, they called Russia's refusal to take responsibility for its role in the downing of flight MH17 as 'unacceptable'.

"The Australian government has always said that it will not exclude any legal options in our pursuit of justice,” the statement said.

“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.”

Australia and the Netherlands have both concluded that there was overwhelming evidence MH17 was shot down by a Russian Buk-TELAR surface-to-air missile.

The two countries agree the missile was transported from Russia to a field in the east of Ukraine in 2014, where the plane was shot down.

Both countries said evidence indicated the missile belonged to the Russian Federation's 53rd Anti-Aircraft Military Brigade.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied his country's involvement in the plane attack.

Featured Image Credit: ITAR-TASS News Agency/Peter Cavanagh/Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: News, Australia, Russia

Rachel Lang
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