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Russia's UN Veto Of MH17 Tribunal Condemned

Vitaly Churkin, Russia's ambassador, to the United Nations, votes to veto on a draft resolution for establishing a tribunal to prosecute those responsible for the MH17 crash during a Security Council meeting in New York on July 29.
Vitaly Churkin, Russia's ambassador, to the United Nations, votes to veto on a draft resolution for establishing a tribunal to prosecute those responsible for the MH17 crash during a Security Council meeting in New York on July 29.

There has been widespread condemnation of Russia's decision to veto a UN draft resolution to create an international tribunal over the downing of a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine last year, with a number of countries pledging to explore other ways to ensure justice.

The tribunal would have been tasked with investigating and trying those responsible for firing the missile that is believed to have shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over a region where pro-Russian fighters were battling Ukrainian troops, killing all 298 people aboard.

The text also would have required all countries to cooperate with the tribunal or face sanctions.

But Russia followed through on a vow to use its veto power on the 15-member Security Council session during the July 29 vote.

Eleven other Security Council members backed the proposal by Malaysia, Australia, the Netherlands, and Ukraine, while Angola, China, and Venezuela abstained.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Russia had "failed to stand up and be counted in the quest for international justice."

He said Russia's veto was "exceptionally disappointing" but "not surprising."

Rutte added that countries involved in a Dutch-led investigation will now focus on other legal options "at both the international and national level...supported by a broad international coalition" because "the perpetrators...must not be allowed to escape punishment."

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott called Russia's veto "outrageous."

"By its actions, Russia has shown complete disregard for the families' right to know who was responsible and to see these criminals face justice," Abbott said.

The majority of those who died were Dutch, and nearly 40 were Australian citizens or residents.

Other Options

Malaysia's Foreign Ministry said Russia's veto "does not mean there will be impunity for MH17."

"We will consider and explore other viable options and prosecuting mechanisms," it added.

"The results of the vote on the MH17 tribunal speak for themselves," Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's press secretary, Svyatoslav Tseholko, said. "But Ukraine will not stop there. Our goal is to punish the guilty."

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said Russia had "callously disregarded the public outcry in the grieving nations."

She told the council that "no veto will stand in the way of this heinous crime being investigated and prosecuted."

The European Union described Russia's veto as a "setback" that it regrets.

European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told reporters that "the work must continue so that those who are either directly or indirectly responsible for the downing of MH17 are, indeed, held accountable."

Leaked details of the Dutch-led probe suggest the plane was shot down by a Russian-supplied surface-to-air missile fired from separatist-controlled territory.

That investigation's conclusions are expected to be published in October.

Moscow accuses Kyiv of shooting down the airliner, but justified its veto by saying it was denied access to the crash site in territory under the control of pro-Russian separatists.

"What are the grounds to be assured of the impartiality of such an investigation?" Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin asked in a speech to the council, lashing out at "aggressive...propaganda in the media."

Russia had proposed its own resolution asking for a greater UN role in an investigation into what caused the downing of MH17 but stopping short of a call for a tribunal.

Churkin said that past international tribunals, including to investigate the Rwandan genocide and violence in the former Yugoslavia, were "expensive."

Malaysia, Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Ukraine have undertaken a criminal inquiry into the downing of MH17.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa
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