Netherlands, Australia officially blame Russia for MH17 disaster

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- The Netherlands and Australia are holding Russia legally responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was shot down over war-ravaged eastern Ukraine nearly four years ago, killing all 298 people on board. The announcement Friday came a day after international investigators announced that the missile system that brought down the Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight came from a Russia-based military unit.

Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said Friday that following that conclusion, "the government is now taking the next step by formally holding Russia accountable."

Blok said the Netherlands and Australia had "asked Russia to enter into talks aimed at finding a solution that would do justice to the tremendous suffering and damage caused by the downing of MH17."

Russia denies involvement in the July 17, 2014, missile strike, and has called all accusations and international investigations into the plane's downing politically biased.

Report finds Russian missile used to shoot down MH17

The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was destroyed by a Buk missile fired from within rebel-controlled territory by a mobile launcher trucked in from Russia, the joint investigation concluded last year.  

The victims of the disaster came from 17 countries, but 196 of them were Dutch, and the government of the Netherlands said last year that any suspects would be prosecuted in that country.

In March a Ukrainian military pilot who was accused by Russia of shooting the commercial flight down committed suicide at his home, according to Ukrainian media. Ukrainian outlets said 29-year-old Capt. Vladyslav Voloshyn shot himself, but his death was being investigated under the "premeditated murder" section of the Ukrainian penal code. A military service pistol found at the scene was also being looked at.

According to the BBC, Voloshyn had been in charge of the Mykolaiv airport after leaving Ukraine's air force. Before that, he flew combat missions against Russian-backed rebels, and was described by Ukraine as a war hero. Russia alone accused him of shooting down MH17 in 2014, an allegation he always insisted was a lie.