(adds quotes, more details)
AMSTERDAM, July 21 Dutch prosecutors have opened
an investigation into the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight
MH-17 on suspicion of murder, war crimes and intentionally
downing an airliner, a spokesman said on Monday.
Based on the Law on International Crimes, the Netherlands
can prosecute any individual who committed a war crime against a
Dutch citizen. The 298 people who were killed when the plane was
downed over Ukraine included 193 Dutch citizens.
The spokesman said that a Dutch public prosecutor was in
Ukraine as part of the investigation.
The Dutch prime minister meanwhile threatened tough action
against Russia if it did not do more to help.
Western governments have pointed the finger of blame at
pro-Russian rebels and at Moscow itself over the downing of the
plane. Russia has denied involvement and blamed the Ukrainian
military for the disaster.
"It is clear that Russia must use her influence on the
separatists to improve the situation on the ground," Prime
Minister Mark Rutte told a committee of the Dutch parliament.
"If in the coming days access to the disaster area remains
inadequate, then all political, economic and financial options
are on the table against those who are directly or indirectly
responsible for that," he said.
His comments reflected a change in tone from previous days,
when he had stressed the importance of ascertaining the facts of
the crash before considering a response.
Rutte on Monday promised lawmakers "measures would not be
lacking" if it was confirmed who was responsible for bringing
down the airliner.
Rutte's remarks followed days of mounting pressure calling
on the government to take a harder line against Russia.
"In the Netherlands we are inclined to approach our
opponents in a fair and socially acceptable way in hope that
opponents will respond in kind," said Dick Berlijn, a former
head of the Dutch armed forces who has been outspoken in calling
for a tougher approach.
"What we have seen, especially with the Russian
administration is this didn't impact at all, they saw this as a
weakness," he said in an interview with Reuters.
Russia, is the Netherlands' second-largest oil supplier and
a major export destination for Dutch manufacturers. But growing
consternation over the fate of flight MH-17 and its passengers
may be forcing the government into taking a harder line.
On Monday afternoon, relatives of some of the passengers who
lost their lives met Rutte alongside the Dutch King and Queen to
be briefed on efforts to recover their bodies and to allow them
to give their views on what sort of a memorial service should be
(Reporting By Thomas Escritt, editing by Angus MacSwan)