UNITED NATIONS • Russia has vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that sought to set up a special tribunal to try those responsible for shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine.
Eleven of the 15 members of the United Nations Security Council voted in favour of the resolution late on Wednesday. Angola, China and Venezuela abstained.
Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine, the five countries which drafted the resolution, are now considering setting up an independent international tribunal after Russia's veto.
The session began with a moment of silence in honour of the 298 people killed in the July 17 disaster last year. The plane was downed over rebel-held east Ukraine amid heavy fighting between Kiev's armed forces and pro-Russian separatists.
The resolution was supported by Britain, France and the United States, which accuse pro-Russian separatist rebels of shooting down the Boeing 777 with a surface-to-air missile supplied by Russia.
Moscow denies involvement and blames the Ukrainian military.
Yesterday, Russia's UN ambassador, Mr Vitaly Churkin, launched into a lengthy defence of Moscow's actions, pinning the blame on others. Mr Churkin said Russian investigators had been denied equal access to the crash site, and criticised what he said would have been criminal prosecution carried out "in a closed fashion".
"What are the grounds to be assured of the impartiality of such an investigation?" he asked in a speech to the Security Council.
Western powers in the council, as well as Australia and the Netherlands, whose citizens together with Malaysia's accounted for most of the victims, castigated Russia. "It is tragic that Russia has used the privilege entrusted to it... to frustrate international peace and security," said US ambassador Samantha Power.
Thirty-nine Australians died on board MH17. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop attended the vote in person, delivering a stinging rebuke on Russia.
"In a world with an increasing number of violent terrorist groups and other non-state actors... it is inconceivable that the Security Council would now walk away from holding to account those who brought down a commercial airplane," she said.
Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders expressed his "deep, deep disappointment" over the result.
Most of the passengers on the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were Dutch.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS