Australia slams Russia over MH17 spy scandal

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine in 2014. (Reuters pic)

PETALING JAYA: Australia has joined global condemnation of Russia after it was revealed that Russian spies tried to hack files relating to the probe on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 which was shot down over Ukraine in 2014.

This followed a revelation by Dutch authorities that four Russian operatives had been expelled after they were caught trying to hack into the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague as it investigated the attempted poisoning of Russian double-agent Sergei Skripal in the UK in March.

Australia’s news portal quoted a statement by Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne who said Russia’s actions in trying to hack the OPCW “undermine global integrity and trust”.

“Likewise, any actions intended to compromise or undermine the integrity of the Joint Investigation Team’s authorised and legitimate investigation into the destruction of flight MH17, which resulted in the death of all aboard the flight, are unacceptable,” she said.

“These attributions raise questions about Russia’s credibility in wanting to genuinely resolve the issues surrounding what happened to Flight MH17.

“Australia joins other nations in calling on Russia to strongly affirm its commitment to acting as a reliable party to the investigation and subsequent resolution of the matter.”

Flight MH17 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down on July 17, 2014, over eastern Ukraine, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board.

A majority of those killed were from the Netherlands, followed by Malaysians, Australians and others.

It was reported that the four alleged members of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency were caught red-handed with a car full of electronic gear in a carpark next to the OPCW.

At the time, the organisation was probing the use of the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok in the attempted poisoning of Russian double-agent Skripal in the UK in March.