International investigators said Wednesday they had found evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin was connected to pro-Russian separatists that shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in 2014.
Members of the Joint Investigation Team in The Hauge, Netherlands, said there were “strong indications that the Russian president decided on supplying” a Buk missile system to Russian separatists stationed in eastern Ukraine. This system was later used to shoot down MH17, a passenger jet flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The crash resulted in the deaths of all 298 people on board.
Putin has always denied the Russian government’s involvement in the crash, and has refused to cooperate with international investigators. The JIT did note that there was no evidence Putin himself had ordered the downing of the plane.
Despite this, The Washington Post reported that JIT’s evidence was based on intercepted phone calls in which “Russian officials said that the decision to provide military support to the separatists could be made only by the Russian president.”
“There is concrete information that the separatists’ request was presented to the president, and that this request was granted,” prosecutors said.
However, Dutch prosecutor Digna van Boetzelaer said during a news conference that while the evidence against Putin was strong, “the high bar of complete and conclusive evidence is not reached.” She added that as a head of state, Putin would be immune from prosecution in the Netherlands anyway.
Other Russian officials have been charged in the case, though, including two state security officers and a separatist leader who were convicted this past November of murder — though the Post noted they were never arrested or extradited.
Dutch prosecutors have previously concluded that Russia was responsible for the downing of the plane.