Australian FM Slams Russia Over Shoot-Down of Civilian Plane: Your Veto ‘Compounds the Atrocity’

By Patrick Goodenough | July 30, 2015 | 4:26am EDT
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop prepares to speak in the U.N. Security Council, after Russia vetoed a draft resolution in the Security Council that would create a tribunal to prosecute those found responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

(CNSNews.com) – Australia’s foreign minister could barely hide her contempt for the Putin regime Wednesday as she rebuked Russia for vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have established a criminal tribunal into the shooting down of a civilian aircraft over Ukraine.

Russian-backed rebels are leading suspects in the July 2014 atrocity, which cost the lives of all 298 passengers and crew onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, including 39 Australians.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called Russia’s vote – which killed the resolution in a 11-1 vote – “an affront to the memory” of the victims. (China, Venezuela and Angola abstained.)

“The veto,” she said, with a hard look at Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, “only compounds the atrocity.”

“Only one hand was raised in opposition, but a veto should never be allowed to deny justice,” Bishop said. “The recital of discredited contentions and the anticipated excuses and obfuscation by the Russian Federation should be treated with the utmost disdain.”

“If Russia has evidence relevant to this matter, surely Russia would want it heard by a wholly independent and impartial tribunal set up by the United Nations Security Council, of which it is a member,” she said, noting that the envisaged tribunals prosecutors and judges would have been appointed by “the impartial secretary-general,” Ban Ki-moon.

“The tribunal would have operated in accordance with the highest international standards under the auspices of the Security Council, of which Russia is a member,” Bishop added.

The perpetrators of the shooting down of MH17 “may believe that they can now hide behind the Russian Federation veto,” she said, but warned that “they will not be allowed to evade justice.”

Theories put forward by Russian officials and Kremlin media organs include that Ukrainian forces shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, intentionally or by mistake, or that a conspiracy by Ukrainian officials and air traffic controllers was designed to cause the incident, and tarnish the rebels.

Churkin alluded to that latter theory in a brief statement at the end of the Security Council session, during which he also dismissed some of the criticism aimed at his country as “insulting and not worthy of diplomats.”

“Why were civilian airliners sent to areas where military activities were underway?” he challenged Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, who took part in the session.

Churkin said not just the perpetrators should be punished, but also those responsible for the aircraft being in that airspace.

In an earlier statement, Churkin questioned the impartiality of investigations amid what he called “the aggressive propaganda backdrop in the media” and “pressure of political origin.”

“The position which we have adopted today has nothing in common with promoting impunity,” he said through a translator.

‘Protecting the perpetrators’

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power dedicated the first half of her statement after the vote to name and describe some of the victims of the atrocity.

While justice would not fill the void left by the loss of those who were killed, she said, “efforts to deny justice only intensify the pain of the victims’ families, who have already endured more than any of us can fathom.”

“Russia has callously disregarded the public outcry in the grieving nations, the appeals of the families affected,” she said.

“It is tragic that Russia has used the privilege entrusted to it in order to advance international peace and security, in order to frustrate international peace and security.”

Those killed onboard MH17, a scheduled service from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, included 196 Dutch citizens, 44 Malaysians, 39 Australians, 12 Indonesians and 10 Britons. An American-Dutch dual national, Quinn Lucas Schansman, 19, was among the victims.

An early U.S. intelligence assessment said the plane was shot down by separatists, likely using a Russian-made surface-to-air missile system.

The Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia, Ukraine and Belgium are jointly investigating the incident, and a report on that probe is due to be released in October.

Supporters of the resolution vetoed on Wednesday argued that it was important to have an ad hoc international tribunal established before the results of that investigation were released, so as not to politicize the prosecution process.

The Kremlin disagreed. “The Russian president confirmed the unchanging position that it is inexpedient to create such a judicial body,” Russian media quoted it as saying in a statement issued after Wednesday’s vote.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the Russian veto “reinforce[s] concerns Russia is protecting the perpetrators and continuing to assault the sovereignty of Ukraine.”

In a television interview on the first anniversary of the crash, earlier this month, Abbott underlined his government’s view of who is to blame.

“We are confident that it was weaponry that came across the border from Russia, fired and then shortly thereafter, once it was realized what had happened, it went back into Russia,” he said.

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