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Top Russian named over downing of MH17

9News.com.au logo 9News.com.au 25/05/2018 Airlie Walsh

An independent investigation has identified a high-ranking Russian military officer as a person of interest in the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in 2014.

Research network 'Bellingcat' and news outlet 'The Insider' named former Russian military adviser and activities directorate Oleg Vladimirovich Ivannikov as a person who had direct influence over the area where the plane was shot down.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop © AAP Image/Dan Peled Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop

It was announced that Ivannikov had used the code names 'Andrey Ivanovich' and 'Orion' in a series of text messages that were discovered by Bellingcat and The Insider.

a close up of a person: An independent investigation has named Russian military adviser Oleg Vladimirovich Ivannikov as a person of interest in the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. Picture: Supplied. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd An independent investigation has named Russian military adviser Oleg Vladimirovich Ivannikov as a person of interest in the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. Picture: Supplied.

The research uncovered that Ivannikov, 51, was deployed into Ukraine in 2014 and coordinated and supervised the actions of Russian militants, pro-Russian separatists and "private army" contingents in the 'Luhansk People's Republic' region. 

The groups also named Ivannikov, who also used the name Andrey Ivanovich Laptev, as a former Minister of Defence and Emergencies with direct links to the Russian government and other military operations undertaken by the country.

For the first time, the identification links a high-ranking Russian military official who had control over the territory on which MH17 was shot down with the destruction of the flight.

Australia is demanding answers of Russia after it was found a missile connected to its military shot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. Picture: AP. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Australia is demanding answers of Russia after it was found a missile connected to its military shot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. Picture: AP.

The revelation comes as Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop demanded answers today from the Russian Federation, after she declared that Australia holds it responsible for the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17

"Russia was directly involved in the bringing down of Malaysian Airlines MH17," the Foreign Minister said. 

"Australia and the Netherlands have requested Russia to enter into negotiations, to open up a dialogue about it's conduct and to seek reparations."

She also said in a joint statement with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that "the Russian Federation must be held to account" over the incident.

a fire pit with smoke coming out of it: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Russia has a responsibility to negotiate after it was directly connected to the incident, which killed 298 people. Picture: AP. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Russia has a responsibility to negotiate after it was directly connected to the incident, which killed 298 people. Picture: AP.

"This evening Australia and the Netherlands notified the Russian Federation that we hold it responsible for its role in the downing. We have requested negotiations to open dialogue around the circumstances leading to the tragic loss of innocent lives," the statement said.

"The Russian Federation must be held to account for its conduct in the downing of MH17 over eastern Ukraine, which resulted in the tragic deaths of 298 passengers and crew, including 38 people who called Australia home.

"Holding the Russian Federation responsible under international law is separate, but complementary to, the prosecution of the individual suspects, which is taking place under the Dutch national system."

It was July 2014 when a missile was launched over eastern Ukraine, catapulting Malaysian airlines flight MH17 out of the sky. 

a group of people walking down a dirt road: Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was downed over Ukraine with 298 people on board. Picture: AAP © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was downed over Ukraine with 298 people on board. Picture: AAP

The deadly incident happened during the war in Donbass, just 50 kilometres from the Ukraine-Russia border. 

Now we know what was long suspected - that Russia was responsible. 

The Dutch chief prosecutor of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which includes Australian officers, told the world that the missile that downed MH17 was fired by the 53rd anti-aircraft brigade of the Russian Army. 

Australian Federal Police Commander Jennifer Hurst pointed to details about the missile that revealed its origins, including the year of production and a unique identification number. 

a man that is on fire: No charges have been laid in light of the revelations, but police, families and governments are confident they will come. Picture: AP. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd No charges have been laid in light of the revelations, but police, families and governments are confident they will come. Picture: AP.

"As we know it was a BUK missile from the 9M38-series. In parts of the plane wreckage as well as in bodies of victims and also on the crash site, different parts of the type of missile were found," she said. 

The downing of the plane killed 298 innocent civilians, including 38 Australians, making it the greatest loss of life overseas since the Bali bombings. 

Over the past four years, Russia has continued to claim to have had no involvement. 

a tent in a field: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has called for Russia to end its ‘campaign of misinformation’ over the 2014 downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has called for Russia to end its ‘campaign of misinformation’ over the 2014 downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight.

"Russia as a permanent five member of the security council has a particular responsibility to co-operate," said Ms Bishop. 

The investigation has been painstaking. Authorities have used photos and video to recreate the route of the missile convoy from Kursk in Russia to near the border with Ukraine. 

A missile was even detonated in a controlled environment to compare it with the impact on the doomed passenger plane. 

What the Netherlands investigators still haven't said is who was behind the missile launch. 

The focus is now on around 100 people whom they believe played an "active role". 

The JIT are urging witnesses, including those connected to the Russian military, to come forward. 

"We are looking for people who were directly involved," said Wilbert Paulissen, the head of the National Crime Squad of the National Police of the Netherlands. 

No charges have been laid but police, families and governments are determined they'll come. 

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