Eight years following the disaster that saw Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) get shot down over Ukraine, international prosecutors have concluded a lengthy probe with the consensus that Russian President Vladimir Putin was very likely to have been involved in the whole affair.
The team revealed that they’d found “strong indications” that the Russian head of state had approved the use of a Russian missile system — the exact one that shot down the plane over the eastern side of Ukraine in 2014, although the evidence of involvement by Putin and other Russian officials was not conclusive enough to lead to a criminal conviction.
The calamity saw all 298 passengers on board the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam on July 17, 2014 killed, including a large number of Dutch nationals.
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Following the accident, a joint investigation was carried out by Malaysia, the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, and Ukraine to determine the party responsible for the incident, and compile evidence for possible criminal prosecutions.
In November 2022, a Dutch court had convicted a pair of Russian ex-intelligence agents and a Ukrainian separatist leader of murder for their part in arranging the deployment of the missile system that was used in the gunning down of the aircraft. All three men are currently still at large.
Also, during the time of the crash, Russian-backed separatists had been fighting against Ukrainian forces for the control of the Donbas region, and experts have claimed that the soldiers responsible for the operation of the missile system had come from Russia’s 53rd Brigade, although the exact individuals responsible remain unidentified.
But after going through an intercepted phone call between Russian officials in 2014, the investigators discovered that the shipment of the missile system (along with other weapons to the separatists) had initially required the approval of Putin himself, while another phone call in 2017 revealed Putin directly discussing the military situation and a possible prisoner exchange with a breakaway Ukrainian politician.
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Following the conclusion of the probe, the Kremlin has since come forth to deny Putin’s involvement in the incident, and dismissed the evidence provided by the investigators.
“We know that a recording of a supposed phone call was published in which not a single word was said about weapons. Even assuming that this conversation is real, there is not one word about weapons,” said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.
“Nobody has published anything else, so it’s impossible to say anything.”
He also added that since Russia had no involvement in the investigation, there was no way for the state to accept such results.
Despite Russia’s denial of Putin’s involvement, some investigators have admitted to wanting to reactivate the case and bring Putin to justice, while countries such as Australia and the Netherlands have openly held Russia as being responsible for the incident.