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Australia Pledges to Push Russia on Prosecutions for Downed Malaysian Plane

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Wilbert Paulissen of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) speaks on the preliminary results of the investigation into the shooting-down of Malaysia Airlines jetliner flight MH17 during a press conference in Nieuwegein, Netherlands, Sept. 28, 2016.

Wilbert Paulissen of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) speaks on the preliminary results of the investigation into the shooting-down of Malaysia Airlines jetliner flight MH17 during a press conference in Nieuwegein, Netherlands, Sept. 28, 2016.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Thursday he will press Russia to support efforts by the United Nations Security Council to prosecute those responsible for bringing down a Malaysian airliner that crashed over eastern Ukraine in July 2014.

International investigators released findings Wednesday saying the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missiles that was transported into Ukraine from Russia.

Turnbull said in addition to the Security Council, where Russia has used its veto power to block action, the Netherlands could take up its own prosecution of the case.

"Every single one of those murdered victims killed by that missile brought in from Russia, fired with the knowledge of Russia, every single one of them demands justice and we will be tireless in our efforts to ensure that justice is done," he said.

The findings released Wednesday confirm an earlier investigation by the Dutch Safety Board that concluded Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was brought down by a Russian-made Buk missile, a claim Russia has denied.

"It may be concluded MH17 was shot down by a 9M38 missile launched by a Buk, brought in from the territory of the Russian Federation," said Wilbert Paulissen of the Dutch National Police.

Watch related video report from VOA's Henry Ridgwell:

​Paulissen said evidence shows that pro-Russian rebels requested the deployment of the surface-to-air missile to the village of Pervomaysk and reported its arrival in eastern Ukraine.

But Russia has dismissed the Dutch-led investigation as subjective.

“Russia is disappointed that the situation around the investigation of the Boeing crash is not changing,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement. “The conclusions of the Dutch Prosecutor's office confirmed that the investigation is biased and politically motivated.”

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov told the Interfax news agency, "All of the data presented today at the briefing by the investigation team has two main sources: the Internet and security services of Ukraine. Therefore, doubts are bound to be raised over the objectivity of this information, and, correspondingly, the conclusions based on it."

Zakharova said Russia offered to assist in the investigation but the investigators “removed Moscow from full participation,” relegating Russia to only a “minor role.”

In a move aimed at preempting the new findings, Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters earlier Wednesday that Russian radar data proved that no rocket was fired from within territory held by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.

Watch related video report from VOA's Zlatica Hoke:

​"The most important thing in today's report is that the circle is narrowing and perhaps next year the international commission of inquiry will name the perpetrators of the crime," Bogdan Petrenko, deputy director of the Ukrainian Institute of Extremism, told VOA. "Probably, after a final conclusion, it will be possible to take the Russian Federation to court. Of course, we are talking first and foremost about the relatives of the victims of the downed Boeing."

"The investigation, a trial in this case, is very important for Ukraine. It makes it possible to sue Russia according to several international conventions," political analyst Olesya Yakhno-Belkovskaya told VOA. "One involves support and financing of terrorism. The results of the investigation of this tragedy are, in particular, proof of Russia's actions in the east of the country -- support and funding of military operations against Ukraine."

The U.S. Department of State said the findings support Secretary of State John Kerry's statement days after the attack that the plane was downed by a BUK missile that was launched from an area controlled by Russian-backed rebels.

"While nothing can take away the grief of those who lost loved ones on that tragic day, this announcement is another step toward bringing to justice those responsible for this outrageous attack," said State Department spokesman John Kirby.

Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed rebels were engaged in intense fighting in eastern Ukraine at the time of the crash.

WATCH: Relatives of victims react to findings

Ukraine reacts to findings

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry hailed the report as “an important milestone” that exposes Russia’s “direct involvement” in the missile attack.

“This puts an end to all of Russia’s attempts to discredit activities of the Joint Investigation Team and conclusions by spreading distorted or fabricated information,” the ministry said.

Malaysia called Wednesday for the perpetrators of the missile attack to be brought to justice.

"Malaysia wants firm action to be taken," said Prime Minister Najib Razak. "We have promised that those who were responsible for the downing of the aircraft will be brought to justice."

In addition to Russia’s consistent denial of any involvement in the crash, Moscow has claimed the airliner was downed either by a Ukrainian fighter jet or shot down from Ukrainian-held territory. But the evidence against that is overwhelming, military science analyst Justin Bronk of the London-based Royal United Services Institute said in an interview with VOA.

“The rebels had been firing surface-to-air missiles regularly for months at all sorts of Ukrainian military aircraft. They did not have any official contact with air traffic control. So they basically have just taken delivery of a much more powerful missile system than they had had previously, and were shooting at whatever they could see. And they, unfortunately, happened to hit an airliner.”

Netherlands chief prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said investigators have identified about 100 who were involved in the attack “one way or another.” He said, “A clear impression of the chain of command” must be established before it can be determined if they are culpable.

The report, which stopped short of concluding Russian soldiers were involved, was prepared by prosecutors from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine.

The report's findings were based on thousands of pieces of evidence, including wiretaps, photographs, witness statements and forensics tests that were gathered over a more than two year period.

Possible criminal trial

Investigators say the latest findings, in addition to those from an earlier investigation, may be solid enough to be used in a criminal trial. Prosecutors cannot file charges at this time because international investigators have not agreed in which court to hold a trial.

The previous investigation identified a 320-square kilometer area where it said the rocket launch must have taken place. Authorities did not explicitly say who had fired it, although all the land was controlled by pro-Russian separatists fighting Ukrainian forces.

In a move aimed at preempting the new findings, Russia on Wednesday said its radar data proved that no rocket was fired from within territory held by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.

On a conference call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian radar identified all flying objects over the rebel territory, and there was no rocket.

“The data are clear-cut...there is no rocket,” he said. “If there was a rocket, it could only have been fired from elsewhere.”

All 298 passengers on the Boeing 777 died after it broke apart in mid-air while traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The downing of the plane was a major factor in a decision by the European Union and the United States to impose sanctions on Russia, leading to a rise in East-West tensions to levels not seen since the end of the Cold War in 1991.

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