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Russia Agrees To Talks With Netherlands On Downing Of MH17

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko (file photo)
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko (file photo)

Moscow is ready to engage in talks with the Netherlands about the 2014 downing of a Malaysian passenger jet over territory held by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko.

"Our dialogue did not stop, including on a political level," he said on February 8, according to Russia's Interfax news agency. "We touched upon those issues, we are ready for talks."

Grushko made the comments the day after the Netherlands said it was "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 downing of Malaysian Airlines flight 17.

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 would lead to formal talks on the matter.

It is not known 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 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."

Investigators Say Missile From Russian Unit Downed MH17
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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 in the downing 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 later, the Russian military made a new claim about the downing, 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.

New Russian MH17 Claims Met With Skepticism
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Kyiv swiftly disputed the Russian assertion, which a senior Ukrainian official called an "awkward fake," while the JIT said that it is still waiting for Russia to send documents it requested long ago 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, AP, and Interfax
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