THE HAGUE, Netherlands — An international team of investigators has suspended its criminal investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, saying they have insufficient evidence to launch any new prosecutions.
Dutch prosecutor Digna van Boetzelaer said Wednesday that “the investigation has now reached its limit. All leads have been exhausted” as the team began laying out the evidence it uncovered in its long-running investigation.
Dutch prosecutors said in their summary of findings that “there are strong indications that the Russian president decided on supplying” a Buk missile system to Ukrainian separatists. A Buk system was used to bring down MH17 on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 passengers and crew.
However, “Although a lot of new information has been discovered about various people involved, the evidence is at the moment not concrete enough to lead to new prosecutions,” they added.
Russia has always denied any involvement in the downing of MH17.
The announcement comes nearly three months after a Dutch court convicted two Russians and a Ukrainian rebel for their roles in shooting down the Boeing 777 and killing all 298 people on board on July 17, 2014. One Russian was acquitted by the court.
None of the suspects appeared for the trial and it was unclear if the three who were found guilty of multiple murders will ever serve their sentences.
The convictions and the court’s finding that the surface-to-air Buk missile that blew the Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur flight out of the sky came from a Russian military base were seen as a clear indication that Moscow had a role in the tragedy. Russia has always denied involvement. The Russian Foreign Ministry accused the court in November of bowing to pressure from Dutch politicians, prosecutors and the news media.
But the November convictions held that Moscow was in overall control in 2014 over the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, the separatist area of eastern Ukraine where the missile was launched. The Buk missile system came from the Russian military’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade, based in the city of Kursk.
The Joint Investigation Team is made up of experts from the Netherlands, Australia, Malaysia, Belgium and Ukraine. Most of the victims were Dutch. It had continued to investigate the crew of the Russian Buk missile system that brought down the plane and those who ordered its deployment in Ukraine.
As well as the criminal trial that was held in the Netherlands, the Dutch and Ukrainian governments are suing Russia at the European Court of Human Rights over its alleged role in the downing of MH17.