UN aviation council to debate whether to hear MH17 case against Russia

MONTREAL (Reuters): The United Nations aviation agency is expected to debate on Friday whether to hear a case against Russia over the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, two sources familiar with the discussions said.

Australia and the Netherlands initiated the action last year at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) about MH17, which was hit over rebel-held eastern Ukraine by what international investigators and prosecutors say was a Russian-made surface-to-air missile, killing all 298 on board.

Australia has said Russia was responsible under international law and that taking the matter to ICAO would be a step forward in the fight for victims who included 38 Australians.

Russia has denied any involvement in the incident. Russia’s ICAO delegation was not immediately available for comment. While the outcome at ICAO is uncertain, experts said the move may be seen as a further way to force Russia into negotiations over the incident.

It was not clear whether an actual vote would occur on Friday, said one of the two sources who spoke on condition of anonymity as the talks are private.

The technical talks by ICAO’s 36-member governing council would come as Moscow is facing mounting rebukes over aviation-related actions following its invasion of Ukraine.

In October, Russia failed to win enough votes at ICAO’s triennial assembly to keep its council seat. The council also called out Russia for the dual registration of commercial aircraft, which the body argued is at odds with parts of a key agreement that sets out core principles for global aviation.

Montreal-based ICAO lacks regulatory power but holds moral suasion and sets global aviation standards overwhelmingly adopted by its 193-member states, even as it operates across political barriers.

ICAO said in a statement that council members prefer “the discussion be conducted as a closed diplomatic session.”