Australia and Netherlands launch legal action against Russia over MH17

Alexander Chizhenok /

Australia and the Netherlands have initiated legal proceedings against Russia for its role in downing Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in 2014. 

The two countries presented the case before the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on March 14, 2022.

In their respective statements, the governments of Australia and the Netherlands said that they have maintained since May 2018 that the Russian Federation is responsible under international law for the downing of Flight MH17.

In October 2020, Russia unilaterally withdrew from negotiations with Australia and the Netherlands regarding the downing of Flight MH17, and refused to return to the negotiating table despite repeated requests by Australia and the Netherlands.

Following the suspension of talks, Australia and the Netherlands held consultations on what steps should be taken next. 

Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison said in a statement that Australia and the Netherlands will rely on overwhelming evidence that:

  1. Flight MH17 was shot down by a Russian Buk-TELAR surface-to-air missile system;

  2. the missile system was transported from Russia to an agricultural field in the east of Ukraine on the morning of July 17, 2014 – an area under the control of Russian-backed separatists;

  3. the missile system belonged to the Russian Federation’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Military Brigade, and was accompanied by a trained Russian military crew;

  4. from the launch site, the Buk-TELAR fired the missile that shot down Flight MH17, killing all 298 people on board;

  5. 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; and

  6. the Buk missile system was returned to the Russian Federation shortly after the downing of Flight MH17.

“The Russian Federation’s refusal to take responsibility for its role in the downing of Flight MH17 is unacceptable and the Australian Government has always said that it will not exclude any legal options in our pursuit of justice,” Morrison said.

“The government will continue to do everything in its power to call Russia to account for the downing of Flight MH17 and to uphold the international legal order,” said Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra. 

“We cannot and will not allow the death of 298 people, including 196 Dutch nationals, to go unanswered. The current events in Ukraine underscore the vital importance of this.”

In a separate statement, the Dutch government said that they have also informed the UN Security Council of this step.

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