A Boeing 777, flight MH17, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, disintegrated in the air over east Ukraine, killing all passengers and crew. Wreckage was scattered over a large area between Grabovo, Rassypnoye, and Petropavlivka, an area controlled by Russian separatist movement, the Donetsk People’s Republic. Of the 298 passengers and crew killed, 193 were Dutch. Subsequently, the Netherlands is leading the air safety and criminal investigations into the crash.
The reasons for the disaster have been given as either the result of a hit from a Russian built BUK surface to air missile, a suitcase bomb, or machine-gun fire from a fighter plane.
Investigations have indicated that MH17 was mistaken for a Ukrainian military aircraft and downed by Russian backed separatists. The Russians, in turn, say they did not possess weaponry capable of downing the airliner, and point fingers at the Ukrainians. According to investigative journalism collective Bellingcat, the weapon came from the 53rd Anti Aircraft Missile Brigade, stationed in the Russian city of Kursk.
The Telegraph reports that 33 families of the victims are seeking to sue the Russian Federation and Vladimir Putin to the tune of $10 million per passenger. Sydney legal firm, LHD Lawyers, served the claim to the European Court of Human rights on May 9. A judgment in their favor could lead to one of the largest aviation disaster payouts to date.
“My clients want accountability for the deed. They want enough money to reflect that the Russians take this seriously and serve as a deterrent,” said lawyer Jerry Skinner, “I have encouraged the Russians to contact me to discuss how much money that is… but I have heard nothing from Russia, from their embassy or from the contact points that we established to indicate that they are willing to talk about negotiating,” he went on to say.
According to the Sunday Morning Herald, the next of kin named in the application are eight Australians, one from New Zealand, and the remainder Malaysians.
The parents of deceased 25-year-old aerospace engineer Fatima Dyczynski, Jerzy and Angela Dyczynski of Perth, said “Fatima made us aware we are all together on the spaceship Earth and that the crew has a power to make changes of the whole planet, even sometimes we feel small and insignificant. We have to remember that our actions can produce the ‘butterfly effect’, a small change within us or in our environment will result in a significant, massive outcome for the mankind. Fatima was, is and will be a source of inspiration for us the parents, for young students, scientists beginning their careers and the enthusiastic entrepreneurs establishing their high-tech start-up companies.”
In the application, it is alleged that the Russian Federation has attempted to keep its connections to the disaster hidden, stating that “It has failed to conduct an internal investigation, refused to participate in the cockpit reconstruction and its ‘Pawn Storm’ cyber warfare unit hacked into the Dutch Safety Board investigative website.”
Skinner, co-associate of LHD, who is known for his ability to achieve high compensation awards for his clients, was involved in the negotiations that led to the $10 million compensation for each of the families of the Lockerbie disaster victims.
Speaking to Fairfax Media in Sydney he said, referring to Putin, “He lost a plane himself over Sinai [a Metrojet Airbus 321 carrying Russian holidaymakers in October 2015] and he offered $50 million to anybody who would give him evidence to find anything,” and went on to say, “Hopefully they [the Russian Federation] will want to talk about it before we get to moving from one court to an arbitration.”
The issue, according to Skinner, is not about how much money will be paid out, but rather about justice and accountability.