The Dutch government urged Russia to return to the negotiating table after Moscow said on Thursday it was withdrawing from talks on liability for the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in 2014.
Russia’s foreign ministry said it was abandoning the discussions with the Netherlands and Australia, saying they were not genuinely interested in establishing the truth about what happened and had launched legal proceedings against it.
MH17 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down by a missile fired from territory held by pro-Russian rebels during fighting in eastern Ukraine, international investigators say. All 298 people on board were killed, two-thirds of them Dutch nationals.
After years of collecting evidence, a Dutch-led international Joint Investigation team (JIT) last year said the missile launcher used to hit the civilian aeroplane came from a Russian army base just across the border.
The Netherlands holds Russia responsible and has started legal proceedings at the European Court of Human Rights. It is prosecuting four individuals – three Russians and a Ukrainian – for shooting down the aircraft and killing everyone on board.
“It is a disappointment and also a surprise,” Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said in response to Moscow’s decision.
“It must especially be a disappointment for the relatives to hear that this venue towards truth and justice for now has been blocked.”
“I cannot exclude any actions (against Russia) for now, but first and foremost is my invitation to the Russians to come back to the negotiating table,” Blok said.
The Russian foreign ministry called the Dutch-led investigation into the crash “biased, superficial and politicised”.
“Australia and the Netherlands did not seek to understand what really happened in the summer of 2014, but instead were aiming to get Russia to admit guilt and receive compensation for the victims’ relatives,” the ministry added.
The JIT also includes Australia, Belgium and Malaysia, which lost citizens in the disaster, as well as Ukraine.