Dutch PM, in Kyiv, urges justice for MH17 victims, dialogue in Ukraine crisis

A photo from July 19, 2014, shows flowers and mementos at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in Donetsk. PHOTO: REUTERS

KYIV (REUTERS) - Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte urged dialogue to defuse a crisis with Russia on Wednesday (Feb 2) during a trip to Kyiv in which he also reaffirmed his resolve to secure justice for families of the victims of an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine in July 2014.

Mr Rutte is the latest leader - following in the tracks of the British and Polish premiers - to visit Kyiv in a show of solidarity after Russia massed tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine's borders in a stand-off that has alarmed the West.

The Ukraine crisis is closely watched in the Netherlands, where Dutch prosecutors have sought the convictions of four men charged with murder over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

The prosecutors say the defendants, who are all at large, helped supply a missile system that Russian-backed separatists battling Kyiv's forces used to fire a rocket at the plane. All 298 people on board - mostly Dutch nationals - were killed.

"The Netherlands' priorities are establishing the truth (of what happened), achieving justice, and holding those responsible to account," Mr Rutte told reporters, speaking alongside Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

"It's not an easy process but giving up is not an option for both of us," he said.

The Dutch government holds Russia responsible in the case.

Moscow, which backs the separatists in their war with Kyiv's forces, denies any involvement.


Commenting on the current crisis, Mr Rutte said: "President Zelensky and I, we agreed that every effort must now be made to de-escalate the dangerous situation in which we find ourselves.

"And I believe, we believe that the only route to a solution is through de-escalation, diplomacy and dialogue."

Further Russian aggression against Ukraine will trigger a "robust" package of Western sanctions, Mr Rutte said, adding that the Netherlands, a Nato member, had offered assistance to Kyiv to fend off cyber attacks.

Mr Zelensky said the two countries had agreed a joint programme to build 48 hospitals and rehabilitation centres for Ukrainian armed forces and veterans.

In the MH17 case, a verdict in the murder trial of three Russians and a Ukrainian national is expected this year.

A Dutch-led team of international investigators concluded in 2019 that the missile launcher used to hit the passenger plane had come from a Russian army base located near the border with Ukraine.

More than 14,000 people have been killed in the conflict in eastern Ukraine since it erupted in 2014, Kyiv says.

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