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MH17: Australia and the Netherlands condemn Russia's withdrawal from talks

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298 people were killed when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed  in eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014.
298 people were killed when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed in eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014.   -   Copyright  Mstyslav Chernov/AP
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Australia and the Netherlands have condemned Russia's decision to withdraw from consultations on the crash of flight MH17.

The Malaysian Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over Ukraine in July 2014, killing all 298 people on board. The majority of the victims were Dutch and Australian citizens.

The three countries began discussions in 2018 to investigate the cause of this tragedy.

A Dutch-led joint investigation team has concluded that the aircraft was hit by a Soviet-designed BUK missile over the armed conflict zone with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Moscow has vehemently denied any involvement in the crash and blamed Kyiv.

Russia announced on Thursday that it would withdraw from discussions, denouncing "vicious" attempts to blame Moscow for the crash.

The Dutch government has taken Russia to the European Court of Human Rights "for its role in the destruction of flight MH17."

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she was "deeply disappointed" by Moscow's decision.

"We urge Russia to resume talks immediately," Payne said in a statement, adding that Canberra was "determined to seek the truth, justice, and accountability" for the victims and families of the crash.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte added that he was "disappointed" and "surprised" by the decision, which was "particularly painful" for the families of the victims.

Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said in a letter to parliament that he had summoned the Russian ambassador to the Netherlands and expressed his "deep regret".

However, Mr Blok said he remained "committed to continuing the negotiations".

For his part, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said it has "always been open to cooperation" and provided all necessary information to the Dutch authorities.

"Russia's withdrawal from consultations on MH17 is telling evidence of its fear of the truth about what happened," said Dmitry Kuleba in a statement.

Moscow has said they will "continue its cooperation" with the Netherlands in the investigation into the crash, but "in a different format", according to Thursday's statement.

In March, the Dutch courts began the trial of four suspects, three Russians and one Ukrainian, accused of causing the tragedy.

Suspected of being linked to pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, they are being prosecuted by the Dutch prosecutor's office for murder and for deliberately causing the plane crash.

The suspects are accused of conveying the BUK anti-aircraft missile system before it was fired by other as yet unidentified persons.