The Netherlands and Australia have formally accused Russia of being responsible for the 2014 downing of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet that killed 298 people.
The move came a day after international investigators concluded that the missile which smashed into the flight MH17 came from a Russian military brigade in Kursk.
At the time of the incident on July 17, 2014, pro-Russian separatists were fighting Ukrainian government forces in the region.
The Boeing 777 broke apart in midair, flinging wreckage over several kilometres of fields in rebel-held territory.
The two countries “hold Russia responsible for its part in the downing” of the Malaysia Airlines flight, the Dutch government said in a statement yesterday.
They may now move towards submitting the complex dossier to an international judge or organisation, it added.
“Australia and the Netherlands have now informed the Russian Federation that we hold it responsible under international law for its role in the bringing down of MH17,” said Julie Bishop, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs.
“Australia and the Netherlands have requested Russia to enter into negotiations to open up a dialogue about its conduct and to seek reparations.”
Moscow on Thursday rejected an international investigation that found a Russian missile downed flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014, saying no such weapon had ever crossed the Russian-Ukrainian border and blaming Kiev for the tragedy.
“Not a single anti-aircraft missile system from the Russian Federation has ever crossed the Russia-Ukraine border,” the defence ministry said in a statement carried by local news agencies.
The ministry accused Ukraine of being behind the disaster in which 298 people died, saying it had presented evidence that “showed the involvement of Ukrainian units using (Soviet-designed) BUK missiles”.
Earlier in the day, a Netherlands-led joint investigation team said – for the first time — that the missile which brought down the plane over eastern Ukraine came from a Russian military brigade.
The group “has come to the conclusion that the BUK-TELAR that shot down MH17 came from 53rd Anti-aircraft Missile Brigade based in Kursk in Russia,” top Dutch investigator Wilbert Paulissen said.
He told reporters gathered for a press conference that “the 53rd Brigade forms part of the Russian armed forces.”
The Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 was blown out of the sky over conflict-torn eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, while en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
The Russian foreign ministry later said “it is clear that these gratuitous accusations are an attempt to discredit our nation in the eyes of the international community.”
It said investigators had presented “no evidence” to back up their allegation except for a video which it said was based on fabricated information from a blogging site.
Ukraine and its Western allies have long accused Russia of funnelling troops and arms across the border to fan the flames of the conflict.
Moscow has denied the allegations despite overwhelming evidence that it has been involved in the fighting and its explicit political support for the rebels.
Investigators had previously concluded that the plane was hit by a Russian-made BUK missile system brought in from Russia and fired from territory in Ukraine held by Moscow-backed rebels. But they had stopped short of directly saying who pulled the trigger.
Now the team has painstakingly recreated the route taken by the missile convoy from Kursk towards the border into Ukraine using videos and photos. — Al Jazeera