Australia acknowledges suspension of probe into MH17 downing

Dutch investigators and an Emergencies Ministry member work at the site where the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo) in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine November 16, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The Australian government on Thursday said it had acknowledged the decision by international prosecutors to suspend their investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) over Ukraine in 2014.

MH17 was shot down by a Russian BUK missile system as it flew over eastern Ukraine from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 passengers and crew, including 196 Dutch citizens and 38 Australian citizens or residents.

"Russia's illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine and its lack of cooperation with the investigation have rendered ongoing investigative efforts and the collection of evidence impossible at this time," Foreign Minister Penny Wong said in a statement.

"Today's announcement will be distressing for many," Wong said, adding Australia remained committed to pursue its ongoing case with the Netherlands in the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Australia and the Netherlands have said they hold Russia responsible for MH17's downing.

International prosecutors on Wednesday said they had found "strong indications" Russian President Vladimir Putin approved the use in Ukraine of a Russian missile system which shot down MH17.

However, evidence of Putin's and other Russian officials' involvement was not conclusive enough to lead to a criminal conviction, they said, ending their probe for now.

In November, a Dutch court convicted two former Russian intelligence agents and a Ukrainian separatist leader in absentia of murder for their role in the shooting down of MH17, and handed them life sentences.

(Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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