Russia vetoes UN investigation into MH17 crash

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Malaysian Airlines MH17 wreckage

RussiRussia has vetoed a resolution at the UN Security Council to set up an international tribunal into to crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, which was downed in July 2014 over Ukraine. The Russian government has been accused of stalling efforts to shed light on the circumstances of the crash.

The Malaysian Minister of Transport, Liow Tiong Lai, had first introduced the legislation (titled International Criminal Tribunal for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17) with the backing of Australia, Belgium and The Netherlands in an attempt to launch an international investigation into the crash of MH17, and find those responsible for the incident. The U.K., United States, and France voted in favour of the resolution, whilst Angola, Venezuela and China abstained from the vote. The Security Council rules mean that Russia’s veto has cancelled any chance of an international investigation for now.

Russia is widely thought to have supplied the Donbass Peoples’ Militia, a separatist group in the ongoing civil conflict in the Ukraine, with surface-to-air missiles. It is highly likely that members of this group mistakenly shot down MH17, believing it to be a Ukrainian military aircraft – but due to the slow pace of investigations and lack of cooperation this has yet to be conclusively confirmed.

No investigation for MH17

The Russian government has defended its veto, claiming that the UN is not the place for such issues, and cites previous instances where aircraft have been shot down (including Korean Air Lines flight 007, downed by the then Soviet Union) as cases that have not had tribunals. The Russian government claims any international investigation into MH17 would be “confrontational”. Moscow has also denied supplying any rebel forces in Ukraine with anti-air missiles, although there is evidence to contradict such claims.

Clearly, the Russian government wants the international community out of the Ukraine conflict, and specifically any involvement in the MH17 crash. Last year, independent teams were delayed by the fighting in their investigations, and it is unclear if there will ever be a full investigation. With Russia’s claims they are not involved in the Ukraine conflict, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, it comes as little surprise that Russia would veto an investigation that could in any way implicate them in the loss of MH17. That could force more wide ranging accusations of their activities in Ukraine.