Ukraine, Netherlands Ask European Rights Court To Hear MH17 Case Against Russia

People attend a ceremony marking the fifth anniversary of the MH17 plane crash at a memorial near the village of Hrabove in Ukraine's Donetsk region on July 17, 2019.  

The European Court of Human Rights has held a preliminary hearing to decide whether to hear a case filed by the Netherlands and Ukraine that seeks to hold Russia responsible for the 2014 shooting down of a passenger airliner over eastern Ukraine that killed 298 people.

Lawyers for Ukraine and the Netherlands presented their arguments on January 26, saying that Russia had de facto control over the separatist forces that fired the antiaircraft missile that brought down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on July 17, 2014.

Ukrainian Justice Minister Denys Maliuska told judges that Ukraine faced "a consistent or long-term policy of the Russian Federation aimed at bending Ukraine to Russian interests and swaying it from its path toward Western values and civilization."

Dutch lawyer Babette Koopman said her government had determined that the missile system used to shoot down the jet "was provided by Russia with a crew to the separatists" and that the area from which the missile was launched was "under the effective control of Russia."

Koopman added that relatives of the victims were still waiting for an admission of responsibility.

MH17 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down. Some 193 of the victims were Dutch citizens.

Despite compelling evidence, Russia denies providing military assistance to separatist forces in parts of eastern Ukraine that have waged war against Kyiv since April 2014. More than 13,200 people have been killed in the conflict.

In 2016, an international joint investigation team (JIT) determined that MH17 was shot down by a Buk antiaircraft system that had been brought to Ukraine from Russia the same day and which returned to Russia — minus one missile — after the jet was shot down.

The JIT later determined the Buk had been provided by the Russian 53rd Antiaircraft Brigade based in Kursk.

Since 2020, four people — three Russians and a Ukrainian — have been on trial in absentia in the Netherlands for their alleged roles in the MH17 downing. Dutch prosecutors in December asked the court to hand down life sentences to all the defendants.

With reporting by AP and Reuters

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