A Year After MH17 Shot Down, Kremlin Rebuffs Call For Tribunal

In Nieuwegein, Netherlands, on Friday, relatives and friends of victims gather in front of a "hedge of compassion" made of thousands of stuffed animals during a commemoration of the victims of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 plane crash in eastern Ukraine. (EPA/Landov)
In Nieuwegein, Netherlands, on Friday, relatives and friends of victims gather in front of a "hedge of compassion" made of thousands of stuffed animals during a commemoration of the victims of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 plane crash in eastern Ukraine. (EPA/Landov)

A year after a Malaysian airliner was shot down over eastern Ukraine by what is widely believed to have been a rebel-operated, Russian made surface-to-air missile, ceremonies were held to remember the 298 people killed in the disaster.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin has rebuffed calls for a United Nations tribunal to prosecute the suspects behind the July 17, 2014, downing of the Boeing 777 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the aim of such a tribunal would only "ensure punishment of those who Washington has decided are guilty."

One remembrance was held in the Ukrainian village near the crash site, another in the Netherlands, which was home to 200 of the dead. In Australia, with 38 dead in the crash, Prime Minister Tony Abbott unveiled a plaque set in soil from the field where the debris fell.

Immediately after the plane was shot down, the rebels had taken to social media to brag about downing a Ukrainian cargo plane with a surface-to-air missile. But after it became clear that the plane in question was a civilian airliner, the social media posts disappeared. In the following weeks, Ukrainian rebels impeded international investigators trying to reach the crash site.

Since then, Moscow and the rebels have repeatedly denied any involvement even as Washington has insisted that the evidence points to a rebel surface-to-air missile.

Earlier this week, a Russian investigation concluded that an air-to-air missile — presumably fired by a Ukrainian jet — caused the crash.

As The Associated Press notes: "the rebel denials of shooting down MH17 have been increasingly challenged by resident accounts, journalists' observations on the ground and the statements of one rebel official. The Ukrainian government has also provided purported communications intercepts that it says show rebel involvement in downing the plane."

Reacting to recently released video purportedly showing rebels rifling through the still-smoldering wreckage shortly after the plane was shot down — including the personal belongings of the dead passengers — Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she could not verify the authenticity of the footage released by News Corp Australia, but nonetheless called it "sickening to watch."

Speaking of the family members of the Australian passengers killed, she said: "Their grief is inconsolable and the burden of grieving and then seeing this footage will be almost too much to bear."

The Russian embassy in Canberra said the video had been fabricated and labeled it "provocative ... propaganda."

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