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Russia rejects responsibility

The Netherlands and Australia said Friday that they are holding Russia legally responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was shot down over war-ravaged eastern Ukraine nearly four years ago, killing all 298 people on board.

The announcement by the foreign ministers of both countries came a day after international investigators announced that the missile system that brought down the Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight came from a Russia-based military unit. They displayed photos and videos from social media tracking a large convoy of rocket launchers through Russia.

Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said that following that conclusion, "the government is now taking the next step by formally holding Russia accountable."

"The Netherlands and Australia today asked Russia to enter into talks aimed at finding a solution that would do justice to the tremendous suffering and damage caused by the downing of MH17," Blok said in a statement. "A possible next step is to present the case to an international court or organization for their judgment."

Russia denies involvement in the July 17, 2014, missile strike that blew the Boeing 777 out of the sky at 33,000 feet (about 10,000 metres) over war-ravaged eastern Ukraine.

Bodies, debris and burning wreckage were strewn over a field of sunflowers near the rebel-held village of Hrabove in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the Russian border, where fighting had been raging for months.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, rejected the accusations. He said that Russia has been barred from the international investigation and thus can't trust its results. He also charged that Ukraine contributed to the tragedy by failing to ban civilian air traffic over the war zone.

The Russian Defence Ministry said Friday that rocket fragments displayed Thursday by investigators indicated the Soviet-made missile was produced in 1986. It said the Russian military decommissioned all missiles of that type in 2011.

It added that Ukraine inherited such missiles from the Soviet army, adding that the fragments displayed by the investigators indicated the weapon "more than likely belonged to the Ukrainian armed forces."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters that Moscow has co-operated with the investigation and sent data including radar images from the day the plane was shot down.



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