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Flight MH17 | ‘Strong indications’ that Putin approved the supply of the missile



(The Hague) Vladimir Putin likely authorized the supply of the missile that shot down MH17 over Ukraine, but there is insufficient evidence to warrant further prosecution, investigators said on Wednesday.

The Joint International Investigation Team (JIT) claimed there were ‘strong indications’ that the Russian president had approved the transfer of the missile to pro-Russian separatists during the fighting in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

But the investigation is now suspended, because “all tracks have been exhausted” on those responsible for the explosion in flight of the plane, which caused the death of the 298 people on board.

The Malaysia Airlines plane was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was hit on July 17, 2014 over the part of eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russian rebels.

The JIT announcement comes less than three months after a Dutch court convicted two Russians and a Ukrainian for the murder of the passengers and crew of MH17, after trying them in their absence.

“There are strong indications that the Russian President has decided to supply the Buk TELAR to the DPR (Donetsk People’s Republic) separatists,” the joint six-country team investigating the tragedy said in a statement.

Russian officials even postponed the decision to send weapons to Ukrainian separatists because Mr. Putin was at a Normandy landings commemoration in France in June 2014, investigators said.

During a press conference in The Hague on Wednesday, they released an intercepted phone call from an adviser saying the delay had happened ‘because there is only one who decides […]the one who is currently at a peak in France”.

Vladimir Putin, however, enjoys immunity as head of state, making any attempt to prosecute him impossible, investigators said.

“Although we are talking about strong indications, the threshold of complete and conclusive evidence has not been met” regarding its role in the crash, they added.

“Out of Runs”

Investigators had previously concluded that the BUK missile system had been transferred from a Russian military base in Kursk (western Russia) and that they were seeking to find out who was part of its crew and who was part of the chain of command.

But “the investigation has now reached its limit, all leads have been exhausted, the investigation is therefore suspended,” Dutch prosecutor Digna van Boetzelaer noted on Wednesday during the press conference.

“The evidence is insufficient for further prosecution,” she added.

A Dutch court in November sentenced the Russians Igor Girkin and Sergei Dubinsky and the Ukrainian Leonid Khartchenko to life imprisonment in absentia for their role in the tragedy.

Moscow denied any involvement and called the verdict “scandalous”.

The JIT includes representatives from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine, the countries most affected by the crash.

Trial judges in the Netherlands said in delivering their verdict in November that the missile came from Russia and that the suspects were part of a separatist group controlled by Moscow. But they only helped transfer the missile system to Ukraine and did not fire the shot.

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