Just days ahead of the anniversary of the tragic downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, foreign ministers from the G7 called for Russia to “account for its role” in the air disaster that killed 298 people aboard.
Flight MH17 was shot down over territory held by pro-Russian separatist forces in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, as it flew from Amsterdam en route to Kuala Lumpur. The victims were from 10 nations and included 193 Dutch and 28 Australian citizens.
The G7 ministers said in a statement on July 15 that the probe into the plane’s downing by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT)—an independent criminal investigation led by the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, and Ukraine—yielded “compelling, significant, and deeply disturbing” findings on Russia’s apparent role in the tragic incident.
“We are united in our support of Australia and the Netherlands as they call on Russia to account for its role in this incident and to cooperate fully with the process to establish the truth and achieve justice for the victims of MH17 and their next of kin,” the statement said.
The probe concluded in May that there was indisputable proof “a direct link between the rocket that hit MH17 and the Russian army” exists, according to Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok.
Blok said a possible next step for the Netherlands and Australia would be presenting the case to an international court.
Russia has denied any involvement in the plane’s downing.
“Not a single air defense missile launcher of the Russian Armed Forces has ever crossed the Russian-Ukrainian border,” Russia’s TASS news agency quoted the Defense Ministry as saying in a statement back in May.
Prosecutors showed photos and videos of a truck convoy carrying the system as it crossed the border from Russia to Ukraine. It crossed back several days later with one missile missing. The vehicles had serial numbers and other markings that were unique to the 53rd brigade, an anti-aircraft unit based in the western Russian city of Kursk, they said.
“All the vehicles in a convoy carrying the missile were part of the Russian armed forces,” Wilbert Paulissen, head of the crime squad of the Netherlands’ national police, said in May.
The G7 said it condemned in the strongest possible terms the downing of flight MH17 and called for those responsible for firing or launching the Buk surface-to-air missile that hit the civilian aircraft to be held accountable.
“To this end, we call on Russia to immediately engage with Australia and the Netherlands in good faith to explain and to address all relevant questions regarding any potential breaches of international law,” the statement said.
The G7 or Group of seven is made up of ministers from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and the High Representative of the European Union. It serves as a forum for leaders of seven largest advanced economies to discuss issues such as international security and global economic policies.
Reuters contributed to this report.