22 May 2016

Families sue Russia over downing of MH17

9:31 am on 22 May 2016

Families of New Zealand and Australian victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight shot down over Ukraine in 2014 are suing Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin.

Wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine, a week after the plane came down.

Wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine, a week after the plane came down. Photo: AFP

They claim Moscow has hidden its involvement in the downing of the plane, which was blown out of the sky in July 2014, killing 298 people, including two New Zealanders.

The widow of New Zealander Robert Ayley is among the group seeking $A10 million per passenger in a claim served by a Sydney legal firm in the European Court of Human Rights this month.

The families' claim is based on the violation of a passenger's right to life. If the lawsuit is successful it would be one of the largest ever aviation disaster payouts.

The Kremlin said it was unaware of the claim, the Interfax news agency reported, but a senator with Mr Putin's party is quoted in state media as saying it was "legally nonsensical and has no chance".

The West and Ukraine say Russian-backed rebels brought down the Boeing 777, but Russia has claimed a missile was fired from Ukrainian-controlled territory.

In July last year Russia vetoed a Security Council bid to set up a tribunal to investigate who was responsible.

Many of those on board the plane - which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur - were Dutch, and last year the Dutch Safety Board said the plane was shot down by a Russian-made Buk missile.

However, the board was not empowered to address questions of responsibility and did not specify who launched the missile. However, it said the airspace over eastern Ukraine should have been closed.

The plane crashed at the height of the conflict between Ukrainian government troops and pro-Russian separatists.

A separate criminal investigation is still under way in the Netherlands.

-ABC, BBC

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