Australia to extend its role in MH17 investigation as long-awaited trial begins

Amsterdam: Australia will extend its key role in searching for who was responsible for shooting down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 as a landmark trial gets underway in the Netherlands.

The long-awaited trial is expected to be shown new photographs revealing the launch of a missile that shattered the plane over eastern Ukraine in July 2014, killing all 298 passengers and crew including 38 Australian citizens and residents.

A sign at the protest.Credit:AP

Australia announced in May 2018 that it formally held Russia responsible in the plane's downing based on the work of a major joint investigation by officials from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine.

Each member of the Joint Investigation Team on Sunday signed a new agreement to extend the inquiry, which suggests more suspects could potentially be named and prosecuted.

Australia has contributed $50 million towards the investigation and the prosecution.

Families of some of those killed laid out 298 white chairs outside the Russian embassy at The Hague on Sunday in a silent protest aimed at highlighting Russian efforts to stymie the investigation.

Rob Fredriksz, who lost his son Bryce, helps set out a chair for one of the 298 victims of the downed Malaysia Air flight MH17.Credit:AP

Netherlands Public Prosecution service deputy chief public prosecutor Digna van Boetzelaer said uncovering the truth was a "very time consuming and methodical process".

"The Netherlands will begin the trial of the four suspects, however this does not mean the investigation into those responsible has been finalised," she said.

"For me the trial is an important step towards finding truth and accountability. The duration of the investigation has put a heavy burden on the families and friends of the MH17 victims. I am especially relieved for them that the judicial process will now commence."

Former prime minister Tony Abbott on Sunday told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government "connives and covers up" its role in the incident.

With MH17, Russia has demonstrated that there's "a touch of evil at the heart of their government," he said.

"When it comes to ethics and morality, not all that much has changed since the worst days of the Soviet Union."

Russia's ambassador to Australia, Alexey Pavlovsky, has accused the Joint Investigation Team of falsifying evidence and withholding key details from the public. The AFP denied the claim and Pavlovsky did not provide any evidence to support it.

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