US, Britain up pressure on Russia over four suspects involved in MH17 downing

Britain said Russia must cooperate fully with the murder prosecution of the four suspects. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP, REUTERS) - Moscow must ensure that those charged with murder over the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 face justice, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, after international investigators accused three Russians and a Ukrainian over the disaster.

"We call upon Russia to... ensure that any indicted individuals currently in Russia face justice," he said in a statement.

Britain also said Russia must cooperate fully with the murder prosecution of the four suspects.

"The Russian Federation must now cooperate fully with the prosecution and provide any assistance it requests," British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Wednesday (June 19).

He added in a statement: "The charges brought against these individuals today show that the international community stands together against the impunity of those responsible for the despicable murder of 298 innocent people."

Welcoming news of the prosecution, Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement posted on her Facebook page that her government remained committed to holding the perpetrators to account.

"The downing of MH17 was a despicable act and the Australian government has not stopped in the pursuit of justice for the 298 victims, including 38 Australians," she said.

MH17 was shot out of the sky on July 17, 2014, over territory held by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine as it was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Everyone aboard died.

An investigation team in the Netherlands tasked with assigning criminal responsibility for the plane's destruction named four suspects on Wednesday.

Dutch prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said international arrest warrants had been issued for Russian nationals Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko.

Mr Westerbeke said the four were to be held responsible for bringing the BUK missile system from Russia into eastern Ukraine "even though they have not pushed the button themselves".

However, Moscow has slammed the "absolutely unfounded accusations" over the downing of the plane.

"Once again, absolutely unfounded accusations are being made against the Russian side, aimed at discrediting Russia in the eyes of the international community," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its website.

Russia insisted last year that the missile was fired by Kiev's forces, adding that it was sent to Ukraine in the Soviet era.

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