Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders said Saturday that he and his Russian counterpart discussed efforts to prosecute suspects in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine last July. Koenders met with Russia’s Sergei Lavrov during a visit to Moscow, where the pair also discussed the controversial Russian travel blacklist of European dignitaries.
“The talks weren’t easy because we disagree on many points. But we have to have these discussions,” Koenders said in a statement, adding: “It’s vital that we build on Security Council Resolution 2166 in which the international community committed itself to finding those responsible [for downing flight MH17] and bringing them to justice.”
Koenders also said that Lavrov confirmed that Russia “fully stands by what has previously been agreed” in the resolution. It’s our responsibility to pull out all the stops in order to keep the attention of the international community focused on MH17. We owe it to the victims and [their] next of kin,” Koenders said. U.N. resolution 2166, passed last July, demanded that the people responsible for the act "be held to account and that all States cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability.”
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was carrying 298 people when it was shot down over eastern Ukraine. Western defense officials believe that pro-Russian rebels were responsible for downing the aircraft. Over two-thirds of the victims were Dutch, and those responsible for the incident have not yet been identified. An initial report by the Dutch Safety Board had said that the plane was hit by several "high-energy objects." Another report, which will discuss the precise reason for the crash, is due to be released in October, Reuters reported.
The statement also said that Koenders “criticized” the travel ban, imposed by the Russian government, on scores of European dignitaries.
“I said that I didn’t agree with the drawing up of this list and insisted on full transparency and for those people on the list to be given the opportunity to submit an objection,” Koenders said in the statement, adding that the European Union had also condemned the blacklist.
The two leaders discussed the Ukraine crisis and Koenders “urged Russia to cooperate in the full implementation of the agreements made in Minsk to bring about a permanent end to the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
“The fighting has already caused suffering to the people in that region for too long. The parties involved must abide by the agreed ceasefire, withdraw their heavy weapons and allow monitoring by observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe,” Koenders said in the statement.
Kiev has repeatedly claimed that Russian troops are active in eastern Ukraine, but the Kremlin has constantly denied this. According to a report by the U.N., released earlier this month, at least 6,400 people have been killed in fighting in the country since the crisis began.