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[UNITED NATIONS] Russia said on Thursday it will oppose a draft UN resolution circulated by Malaysia on establishing an international tribunal to prosecute those behind the downing of Flight MH17 over Ukraine.
Deputy UN Ambassador Petr Iliichev confirmed Moscow's hostility to the plan, telling reporters: "It's not a good time and it's counterproductive." Asked whether Russia would push against the proposal, Mr Iliichev responded "yes." A day earlier, Malaysia had circulated the draft Security Council resolution on setting up the tribunal and meetings were held with Russia and China to gauge the level of support.
All 298 passengers and crew on board the Malaysia Airlines flight - the majority of them Dutch - died when the plane was shot down on July 17, 2014 over eastern Ukraine.
Suspicions immediately turned to pro-Russian separatists who may have used a surface-to-air missile supplied by Russia to down the plane.
Russia has denied the claim and suggested that a Ukrainian missile may have hit it.
The draft resolution, obtained by AFP, calls for establishing the tribunal under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, which means that the court's efforts to prosecute those responsible could be enforced by sanctions.
The tribunal would be "an effective guarantee for an independent and impartial accountability process," the draft resolution said.
The council would "establish an international tribunal for the sole purpose of prosecuting persons responsible for crimes connected with the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on 17 July 2014," the draft text said.
Under the draft, the council would also adopt the statute of the new tribunal modeled after other UN special courts tasked with prosecuting serious crimes.
TRIBUNAL IS 'BEST OPTION'
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said the international court is the "best option" for prosecution but that there is also a "back-up plan" should the Russians block the proposal.
A final report on the Dutch-led probe is expected in October.
Malaysia is working with Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands and Ukraine - all member countries of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) - on setting up the international tribunal.
On Wednesday, the UN ambassadors from Malaysia and the Netherlands met with Russia's envoy Vitaly Churkin to discuss the draft but were told that they should await the outcome of the investigation before pursuing a tribunal, a diplomatic source told AFP.
Mr Churkin told the envoys that it was "unrealistic" to aim for a vote on the draft resolution this month, to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the downing, according to the diplomat.
China told the Malaysian and Dutch envoys that it would back a tribunal only if there was a consensus at the 15-member council for that option, the diplomat said.
Ambassadors from the JIT are to meet in New York on Friday to discuss the initial response and the next steps.