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Dutch 'Confident' Moscow Will Agree To Talks on Findings Of MH17 Downing Probe

Sunflowers at Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam honor the memory of those killed in the downing of flight MH17.

The Netherlands says it is "increasingly confident" Russia will agree to formal talks about the findings of an international investigation that Moscow bears legal responsibility for its role in the 2014 downing of a Malaysian passenger jet over Ukraine.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry on February 7 said initial diplomatic contacts with Russia took place in "a positive atmosphere" and that it was hopeful the discussions will lead to formal talks on the matter.

"We are in contact with Russia over national accountability via diplomatic channels," a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said. "We are increasingly confident that we will sit down with the Russians shortly."

Foreign Minister Stef Blok told reporters that "there are diplomatic contacts to see if we can begin formal talks about national responsibility for shooting down MH17."

He said it was too early to speculate on where and when formal talks might be held.

A Dutch-led international criminal investigation has concluded that the Buk missile that shot down the Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine in 2014 came from Russia's 53rd Antiaircraft Missile Brigade.

The Joint Investigative Team (JIT) "has come to the conclusion that the Buk-TELAR that shot down MH17 came from the 53rd Antiaircraft Missile Brigade based in Kursk in Russia," top Dutch investigator Wilbert Paulissen told reporters on May 24. "The 53rd Brigade is part of Russia's armed forces."

The JIT comprised authorities from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, and Ukraine.

MH17 was shot down over the conflict zone in Ukraine's Donetsk region on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 people on board.

About two-thirds of the people killed were Dutch citizens. The Netherlands has been one of the main driving forces behind seeking accountability for the attack.

Following the announcement of the JIT findings, Russia's Defense Ministry reiterated it had nothing to do with the downing of the plane.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the findings were based on "fake data" presented by bloggers and that Moscow's information regarding the case was largely ignored.

Months after the downing, the Russian military made a new claim, asserting that the missile that brought the flight down was sent to Soviet Ukraine after it was made in 1986 and never returned to Russia.

Kyiv swiftly disputed the Russian assertion, which a senior Ukrainian official called an "awkward fake," while the JIT said that it was still waiting for Russia to send documents it requested long before and that Moscow had made "factually inaccurate" claims in the past.

If Russia were ultimately to acknowledge some form of legal responsibility, it could lead to compensation claims from relatives of the people killed.

The United States, Britain, and other allies have backed the JIT findings.

"It is time for Russia to acknowledge its role in the shooting down of MH17 and to cease its callous disinformation campaign," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said at the time.

With reporting by Reuters, Meduza, and AP
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