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Russia Under Fire At UN Over Downing Of MH17

Dutch investigators display parts from the BUK-TELAR missile that they say was fired on flight MH17 flight over eastern Ukraine in 2014.
Dutch investigators display parts from the BUK-TELAR missile that they say was fired on flight MH17 flight over eastern Ukraine in 2014.

Russia has rejected calls at the United Nations to accept responsibility for the downing of Flight MH17 over Ukraine after an investigation found that a Russian Army missile caused the explosion that killed all 298 people on board.

At a UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine late on May 29, Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok called on Moscow to accept the findings of a Dutch-led investigative team that the airliner was shot down by a Russian-made Buk missile provided by Russia's 53rd Antiaircraft Missile Brigade based in the city of Kursk.

"The language of ultimatums is not something that anyone will be allowed to use when speaking to Russia," Russia's UN Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya responded.

"We cannot accept the unfounded conclusion of the JIT," he said, referring to the Dutch-led Joint investigation Team.

Separately, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on a visit to Minsk on May 29 also rejected what he called "ultimatums" from the Netherlands and Australia over compensation for relatives of people killed in the incident.

All of the passengers and crew -- mostly Malaysians, Dutch, and Australians -- were killed when the missile slammed into the Malaysian Airlines flight en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur as it flew over territory held by pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine in July 2014.

Russia has claimed that the investigation led by the Dutch government, working in cooperation with the Australian, Ukrainian, and Malaysian governments, was not legitimate because Russia was not included as an equal partner in the investigation.

'Transparent Denials'

Moscow claims that the JIT ignored evidence provided by Russia and, for that reason, it has refused to cooperate with the investigation.

"We are outraged by this terrible incident," Nebenzya said. "We insist on holding a trustworthy investigation. The true culprits should be determined on the basis of factual evidence and brought to justice."

But the Dutch foreign minister, responding to Nebenzya, pointed out that Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for an independent investigation of the incident.

It is "very disappointing" that Russia won't acknowledge the "irrefutable evidence," Blok said. "So far, Russian authorities don't show the slightest interest in achieving truth, justice, and accountability."

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley voiced strong support for the Dutch and Australian demands that Russia acknowledge its role in the tragedy and help bring to justice those responsible for the shooting down of the plane.

Haley said Moscow's denials are linked to its refusal to acknowledge Russia's involvement in the Ukrainian conflict by providing weapons such as Buk missiles to Ukrainian separatists.

"Despite its transparent denials, there is no doubt Russia is driving the Ukrainian conflict," said Haley.

More than 10,300 people have been killed since the conflict in eastern Ukraine broke out in April 2014 following Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin told the council that Russia's rejection of the findings "did not surprise me at all."

"We have no doubt that the downing of MH17 flight is a terrorist act," he said.

Ukraine will present documents to the International Court of Justice next month showing that Russia was violating antiterrorism agreements, he added.

Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz renewed his call for a peacekeeping mission to be deployed to east Ukraine and urged Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to appoint a UN special envoy for Ukraine.

Diplomats said Russia, a veto-wielding power at the council, has blocked attempts to step up UN involvement in efforts to end the conflict.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and TASS
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