Russian President Vladimir Putin likely decided to launch the missile that shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine, but there is no real prospect of holding him or others accountable, investigators said Wednesday.
Investigators said there were “strong indications” that Putin personally approved the transfer of the missile to pro-Russian separatists during fighting in eastern Ukraine in 2014, citing intercepted phone calls.
But the investigation is on hold because “all leads have been exhausted” into the downing of the plane, which crashed and killed all 298 people on board.
The announcement comes less than three months after a Dutch court found two Russians and a Ukrainian guilty of killing those on board MH17 after they were tried in absentia.
“There are strong indications that the President of Russia has made a decision to supply Buk to TELAR [Donetsk People’s Republic] separatists,” says the statement of the joint investigative team from six countries investigating the disaster.
Russian officials even delayed the decision to send weapons to Ukrainian separatists because Putin attended D-Day celebrations in France in June 2014, investigators say.
They played an intercepted phone call from an adviser saying the delay was “because there’s only one person making the decision … the person who’s at the summit in France right now.”
However, Putin enjoys immunity as head of state, which makes any attempt to prosecute the Russian leader impossible, investigators said.
They added that “although we are talking about strong indications, the high bar of full and convincing evidence has not been reached” in relation to Putin.
The joint investigative team consists of representatives from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine, the countries most affected by the tragedy.
The investigators previously stated that they wanted to find out who was in charge of the BUK missile and who was part of the command, but admitted that it is not possible yet.
“Now the investigation has reached its limit, all leads have been exhausted, so the investigation is suspended,” Dutch prosecutor Digna van Boetzelaer said at a press conference in The Hague.
“There is insufficient evidence for new prosecutions.”
Russia then rejected last year’s Dutch sentence as “scandalous” and politically motivated.
Moscow has consistently denied any involvement in the downing of MH17.