Russian President Vladimir Putin tells the Dutch Prime Minister that talk of an international criminal tribunal is premature
His call comes a day before the first anniversary of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17
As the world prepares to mark one year since the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine, Russia is rejecting talk of creating an international criminal tribunal for the case.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte by phone Thursday that Dutch efforts to create a tribunal to try the case were premature and counterproductive, since an investigation hasn’t ended, the Kremlin said.
It’s the latest example of Russian officials – wary of accusations that pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine might be responsible for the disaster – making points of emphasis that diverge from those of other countries investigating the crash.
MH17, heading from Amsterdam to Malaysia, was shot down on July 17, 2014, over Ukrainian territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists, killing all 298 people on board.
Putin’s call came a day after a source told CNN that the Dutch transportation safety board, in a draft report yet to be released, says evidence indicates that pro-Russian rebels shot down MH17 with a Russian-made surface-to-air missile.
Disputes over who is responsible for the disaster have helped to taint relations between Moscow and the West.
On Tuesday, the Netherlands and four other nations leading the MH17 investigation called on the U.N. Security Council to create a tribunal that would try whomever is charged, saying in a joint statement that it would be “the best means of ensuring justice for the victims and their loved ones.”
“Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine call upon members of the Security Council to support this proposal to ensure that those responsible are held to account and to deter those who would threaten civil aviation,” the statement read.
Putin, besides explaining to Rutte why Russia believes calling for a tribunal is premature, stressed “the inadmissibility of media reports on various versions” of what happened to the airliner, the Kremlin said.
Dutch prosecutor: Evidence points to Russian-made missile
Also Thursday, the prosecutor leading the Netherlands’ criminal MH17 investigation told CNN that evidence gathered so far indicates the plane was hit by a Buk, a surface-to-air missile manufactured in Russia.
Even before the MH17 disaster, Western nations accused Russia of supplying the rebels in Ukraine. The United States and the European Union imposed sanctions against Russia last year to punish it for this and its annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.
The prosecutor, Fred Westerbeke, did not comment on who might have fired the missile.
“Most of the information we have points to the use of a Buk rocket being fired from the eastern part of Ukraine,” he said.
Westerbeke’s criminal investigation is separate from that of the Dutch safety board. The criminal probe is expected to produce a report by the end of the year, while the safety board’s report is due in October.
He said investigators are “not yet in the stage where we have suspects, just persons of interest who could have taken part in one of the scenarios.”
He said he believes a prosecution will happen.
“Will the suspect be arrested and handed over for prosecution? That is more difficult to answer,” he said.