'Strong indications' Putin approved supply of missile that downed MH17 flight


Vladimir Putin likely decided to personally approve the decision to supply the missile that shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and killed 298 people in 2014, international investigators said on Wednesday.

But there was not enough evidence of Putin’s involvement to lead to a criminal conviction and the investigation would end without further prosecutions.

Prosecutors said a phone intercept between Russian officials proved that Putin’s approval was needed before a request for the missile from the rebels was granted.

"There are strong indications that the Russian president decided on supplying the Buk TELAR to the DPR (Donetsk People's Republic) separatists," the joint investigation team of six countries probing the crash said.

Piet Ploeg heads a foundation representing victims and lost his brother, his sister-in-law and nephew on MH17. He said he was disappointed the investigation had ended but glad that prosecutors had pointed the finger at Putin.

He said. "We wanted to know who was ultimately responsible and that's clear."

MH17 - AP
MH17 - AP

Investigators also played a 2017 conversation between Putin and the Russian-appointed chief administrator of Ukraine's Luhansk province in which they discussed the military situation and a prisoner exchange.

Prosecutors said they could not identify the specific soldiers responsible for firing the missile system, which came from Russia's 53rd brigade in Kursk.

"The investigation has now reached its limit," prosecutor Digna van Boetzelaer said in The Hague. "The findings are insufficient for the prosecution of new suspects."

Ukrainian forces were fighting Russian-backed separatists in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine when the plane was shot down. Ten Britons were killed when the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed.

MH17 - Antonio Bronic/Reuters
MH17 - Antonio Bronic/Reuters

Moscow, which illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, denied any involvement in the downing of the civilian airliner and being involved in fighting in Donetsk.

In November, a Dutch court convicted two former Russian intelligence agents and a Ukrainian separatist leader of murder for arranging the Russian BUK missile system that was used to shoot the plane down.

The three men, who were tried in absentia, remain at large.

The court also ruled Russia had "overall control" of separatist forces in Donetsk from May 2014.

Vladmir Putin’s army invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and in September said it had annexed Donetsk and three other Ukrainian provinces.