Dutch investigators said on Wednesday there were “strong indications” that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally approved the decision to supply missiles to separatists in Ukraine who shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in 2014.
Citing telephone conversations intercepted by Russian government officials, the Joint Investigation Team of the Public Prosecution Service said “there are strong indications that, in Russia, the president has been a book-teller to DPR separatists.” “decided to supply,” or the Donetsk People’s Republic itself in eastern Ukraine.
Yet investigators said the “high bar of full and conclusive evidence was not met,” and that as head of state, Putin enjoys immunity from prosecution. The joint investigation team said it had shared its findings with the families of 298 victims.
The Kremlin has been reached for a reaction. Moscow has repeatedly denied responsibility for the attack, and Russian officials and state media have offered often conflicting explanations for the tragedy.
Flight MH17 was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014, when it was shot down over territory held by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. All 298 people on board were killed.
Dutch investigators had already concluded that the missile that shot down MH17 was a Russian Buck rocket, fired from a launcher belonging to Russia’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade. A Dutch court in November found two Russians and a separatist Ukrainian guilty of mass murder for their involvement in the downing of MH17.
In their latest finding, investigators say DPR leaders appear to be in “close contact” with Kremlin advisers and the Russian intelligence service.
After the separatists asked for longer-range anti-aircraft guns, their request was discussed in the presidential administration in Moscow in the second half of June 2014. It is a state institution that supports the president. After that, the request for a heavy air defense system is presented to the defense minister and the president,” the investigators told a Dutch court on Wednesday.
Investigators say the separatists’ request was granted.
“In recorded telephone conversations, Russian government officials say the decision on military assistance rests with the president,” the joint investigation team said. “The decision is delayed by a week because there is only one decision maker. […] The man who is at a summit in France.’ President Putin was in France at the time, on 5 and 6 June 2014, for the D-Day celebrations.
“There is solid information that a petition has been presented to the President by the separatists, and that a positive decision has been taken. It is not known whether the petition specifically mentions the book system. After a while, heavy Air defense systems were provided, including Buck which later shot down MH17.”
Investigators said there was not enough evidence to open a new case.
“Because it cannot be determined at this time who the operators of the Buck-Tailor were, and lack of other concrete information, it cannot be determined why they fired the Buck rocket at MH17, they What was the mission, and what information was there at the time of the shooting.”
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