SYDNEY, May 21 (UPI) — Families of the victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 are suing Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government after the jet was shot down by a Russian-made missile over the Ukraine in 2014.
LHD Lawyers, based in Sydney, Australia, filed a claim seeking $10 million ($7.2 million U.S.) for each victim.
U.S. aviation lawyer Jerry Skinner is leading the case, which names the Russian state and Putin as respondents in a 3,500-page claim.
Although Russia blames the Ukraine for launching the missile, Skinner’s suit claims Russia violated the right to life and protection from torture of the 298 passengers who were killed in the strike.
“It’s very hard from the families to live with; this is a crime,” Skinner said. “The Russians don’t have any facts for blaming Ukraine, We have facts, photographs, memorandums, tons of stuff.”
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, 33 next of kin are named in the application including eight from Australia, one from New Zealand and the remainder from Malaysia.
A similar case was filed in July 2015, which accused former separatist commander in the Ukraine Igor Strelkov of being involved in the launch. The case was filed in Chicago on behalf of of relatives of 18 passengers and sought $900 million in damages.
Skinner said he was awaiting word from the European Court of Human Rights on whether or not they would accept the case.
If they were to accept he said the court could make a determination of “just satisfaction” that the respondent is accountable for the acts that occurred and then move to the International Court of Arbitration to put a figure on the award.
“We’re all sitting with our fingers crossed — there are some legal determinations they will have to make,” Skinner said. “We didn’t go to Russia and file suit in Moscow because it’s absolute nonsense to think we could have a realistic chance of success.”
Skinner said Russia has been uncooperative so far, but he was successful in a similar case when he helped negotiate a multimillion dollar compensation case from Libya for victims in the Lockerbie disaster in 1988.
“My clients want accountability for the deed. They want enough money to reflect that the Russians take this seriously and serve as a deterrent,” he said. “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.”