In November, two former Russian state security agents and a Ukrainian separatist leader were convicted of murder in the case, although they were never arrested or extradited. The Dutch authorities were in charge of the investigation because the theft originated from Amsterdam.
The joint investigation team (JIT) led by the Dutch had previously determined that a Russian-supplied Buk surface-to-air missile hit the Boeing 777 flying in Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014, killing all passengers and crew.
At a press conference in The Hague on Wednesday, the JIT said its findings on Putin’s role were based on recorded phone conversations in which Russian officials said the decision to provide military support to the separatists would not could be taken only by the Russian President.
“There is concrete information that the separatists’ request was presented to the president and that this request was granted,” the investigators said, adding, “It is not known whether the request explicitly mentions a Buk system.”
The team noted that despite the strong indications, “the high bar of comprehensive and conclusive evidence has not been reached.” Prosecutors said they had exhausted their leads and there would be no further criminal charges.
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In its November verdict, a Dutch court convicted the three murder suspects, although none of them are in custody. A fourth suspect was acquitted. The verdict determined that Moscow was responsible for the downing of the plane.
The Kremlin has long denied any involvement in the downing of the jetliner and has refused to extradite the defendants or cooperate with investigators. He also argued, wrongly, that Russia was not a party to the conflict that unfolded in the Donbass in 2014.
The court, however, determined that Moscow financed and armed the separatist forces in Donetsk and generally controlled the separatist area of Luhansk and its authorities.
Dutch investigators said they had analyzed all available telecommunications, radar and satellite data to establish what had happened to the plane and determine the role of three convicted men in delivering the missile system to the site. launch in Pervomaiskyi.
“The purpose of this investigation was to find out the truth, and I think we have gone further than we imagined in 2014,” said Deputy Attorney General Digna van Boetzelaer. “The findings we have uncovered on Russian involvement at the highest level may play an important role in proceedings where this state’s responsibility is at issue.”
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But given the limited evidence, the investigation was unable to identify the specific soldiers responsible for firing the missile that shot down the plane, which came from Russia’s 53rd Brigade in Kursk. Investigators have also not determined what information the separatists had about the plane when they fired.
“The JIT investigated everything it could without the cooperation of Russian authorities and without endangering the safety of people,” said Andy Kraag, head of the National Criminal Investigation Department in the Netherlands, according to a transcript. “Any other evidence should be sought in the Russian Federation. And for this, the JIT depends on the cooperation of Russian authorities or Russian (insider) witnesses. Our door remains open to them.