National

Australia’s MH17 effort continues: Dutton

By AAP Newswire

Australia will play a major role in tracking down and prosecuting those responsible for the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.

Australia is spending $50 million and has already deployed more than 500 federal police officers in support of the investigation into the ground-to-air attack over eastern Ukraine in 2014, which took the lives of 298 people including 38 Australians.

Dutch prosecutors on Wednesday charged Russians Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov and Ukrainian Leonie Kharachenko over the mass killing in eastern Ukraine.

The four were officials in the pro-Russian Donetsk People's Republic and allegedly responsible for the Buk missile launcher being brought into the area from Russia.

International arrest warrants have been issued.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told reporters in Sydney on Thursday the work of the Australian Federal Police had to date been instrumental in the outcome.

"The AFP will continue to work with their counterparts from the Netherlands, Belgium, Ukraine and Malaysia as part of the Joint Investigation Team which is determined to pursue all possible suspects," he said.

"Our commitment to bring the perpetrators to justice remains firm."

Australia's funding will go directly towards the Dutch prosecutions to ensure an Australian role in the criminal proceeding, including the participation of next of kin. It will also help continue the operation of the Australian embassy in Kyiv.

Former foreign minister Julie Bishop says the grieving families will be relieved charges have been laid, despite Russia's efforts to rattle the investigation.

Her successor Marise Payne also says the charges and international arrest warrants are an important step but has stressed the path to justice for the victims' families will be a long one.

"I welcome this progress in the investigation of the shooting down of MH17 with the naming of these four individuals to be prosecuted for their role in what was a despicable crime," Ms Bishop told ABC Radio.

"It will be a relief to the families who deserve answers as to how their loved ones died aboard that plane."

As foreign minister, Ms Bishop led a push for the international community to have access to the crash site, located where Ukrainian armed forces and Russian-backed armed separatists had been fighting.

She also doggedly pursued justice for the victims and their families.

Russia's Foreign Ministry has rejected the charges as "absolutely unfounded" and criticised investigators for using "dubious sources of information" and ignoring the evidence provided by Moscow in order to "discredit the Russian Federation".

But Ms Bishop said the team investigating the incident had been "extremely thorough and diligent and independent".

"Russia has long waged a disinformation campaign against the joint investigation team. There have been cyber attacks targeting the investigation," she said.

Russia should now comply with a United Nations resolution that mandates states co-operate with the investigation, she stressed.

The four who have been charged will be tried in The Netherlands on March 9 - likely in absentia because Russia and Ukraine don't allow extradition of their citizens.

Ms Bishop is confident that even if the men don't appear in court, the processes - including one aimed at holding Russia to account for the incident - will bring justice.

Labor has praised the joint investigation team for laying charges and urged Russia to "abandon its obstructionism".