Monday 24 February 2020

Koenders talks to Russian ambassador after criticism of MH17 report

Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders

Foreign minister Bert Koenders.

Russian ambassador Alexander Sjoelgin was summoned to a meeting by foreign minister Bert Koenders on Friday to object to Russian criticism of an international criminal investigation into the downing of the MH17, reports ANP.

On Wednesday, to a heavy Russian media presence, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) presented its conclusions into how the Malaysia Airlines flight was shot down over Ukraine on July 17, 2014. All 298 passengers and crew died, two-thirds of them Dutch citizens.

The JIT concluded that the Boeing 777-300 was shot down by a BUK missile, transported to and from Russia, and fired from a wheat field south of the town of Snizhne, in separatist-controlled territory.

Russia: ‘bias’

At the time, there was heavy fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists, and the plane had diverted from its normal course due to a thunderstorm.

But Russia’s foreign ministry claimed that the report was ‘proof of bias and political motivation’, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying it was ‘preliminary’ so proved nothing. The Russian defence ministry denied sending any rocket launchers across the border.

The JIT said it had 100 named suspects and is confident it will succeed in finding the culprit, but did not name any individuals or government as responsible.

Koenders: unacceptable

But a statement from Koenders, reported by ANP on Friday, said he told the Russian ambassador in The Hague that such criticism is unacceptable. ‘Instead of blackening the study and sowing seeds of doubt, Russia should – given the convincing evidence – respect the presented results,’ he said in the statement.

He protested that the Russian reaction put ‘the professionalism, integrity and independence of the Dutch public prosecution service in doubt’.

Dutch media reported that this action by the foreign minister is unusual, as – although secret documents recently revealed that pro-Russia separatists were suspected by the government from day one – The Netherlands has been cautious about public comment.

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