Alleging bias, Russia withdraws from MH17 talks with Netherlands and Australia

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Russia’s foreign ministry said on Thursday it was withdrawing from talks with the Netherlands and Australia over the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, accusing both countries of not wanting to establish what really happened.

MH17 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down by a missile fired from territory held by pro-Russian rebels during fighting in eastern Ukraine, international investigators say. All 298 people on board were killed.

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After years of collecting evidence, a Dutch-led international Joint Investigation team (JIT) last year said the missile launcher used to hit the civilian airplane came from a Russian army base just across the border.

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The Russian foreign ministry said its decision to withdraw from consultations with the Netherlands and Australia came in response to a Dutch government suit filed against Moscow at the European Court of Human Rights in July this year.

“Such unfriendly actions by the Netherlands make it meaningless to continue our participation in tripartite talks,” the ministry said in a statement, calling the Dutch-led investigations into the downing “biased, superficial and politicized”.

“Australia and the Netherlands did not seek to understand what really happened in the summer of 2014, but instead were aiming to get Russia to admit guilt and receive compensation for the victims’ relatives,” the ministry added.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he was surprised by Russia’s unilateral decision to stop negotiations on its liability for the downing of flight MH17, as well as by the timing.

“This is painful for the next of kin,” he told Dutch media in Brussels.

Rutte said the Netherlands would continue negotiations with Australia to “accommodate the 298 victims and their relatives”.

In separate comments, Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said the Netherlands “greatly regrets” the Russian decision to quit the talks.

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