AMSTERDAM — The Dutch government is taking Russia to the European Court of Human Rights over the downing nearly six years ago of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine.
The Netherlands, home to roughly two-thirds of the victims, made the move to provide “maximum support” to individual cases brought to the European court by victims’ relatives, the country’s foreign minister, Stef Blok, wrote in a letter to Parliament released on Friday.
All 298 people on the flight were killed after a Buk surface-to-air missile from territory controlled by pro-Moscow Ukrainian rebels downed the plane on July 17, 2014, when it was on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
“Achieving justice for 298 victims of the downing of Flight MH17 is and will remain the government’s highest priority,” Mr. Blok said. “By taking this step today — bringing a case before the European Court of Human Rights and thus supporting the applications of the next of kin as much as we can — we are moving closer to this goal.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, described Friday’s step as “another blow” to the relationship between Russia and the Netherlands.
“The Hague took the path from the very beginning of placing all blame on Russia for the crash of Flight MH17,” Ms. Zakharova said in a statement. “We believe that this step will only lead to further politicization and will complicate the search for the truth.”
Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the tragedy, despite growing evidence that the plane was shot down by a Russian anti-aircraft missile sent into eastern Ukraine from a Russian military base across the border.
Instead of addressing evidence unearthed by Dutch and other foreign investigators Moscow has generated a series of highly implausible counter explanations and conspiracy theories which have mostly focused on blaming Ukraine and attacking the legitimacy of the investigation.
The aircraft broke up in the sky and scattered debris and bodies across a vast area that was controlled by separatist forces.
Western governments and investigators said that Russian-backed rebels fighting the Ukrainian government were responsible. Moscow has denied any involvement.
An investigative team of police officers from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine found that the antiaircraft missile used to shoot the plane down had been carried from a Russian military base across the border shortly before it was fired.
International prosecutors indicted four men in June 2019, three of whom had ties to Russia’s intelligence and military agencies, and one of whom was from Ukraine. A trial against the men started in March in the Netherlands and is expected to resume in August, according to the Dutch courts. The suspects are being tried in absentia.
Claire Moses and Elian Peltier contributed reporting from London, and Anton Troianovski and Andrew Higgins from Moscow.