The US aviation lawyer who won compensation for victims of the 1988 Lockerbie aircraft bombing and is now seeking $330m from Russia for the downing of Malaysian Airlines MH17 in 2014, says Russian president Vladimir Putin must be held responsible.

Jerry Skinner, who is leading Australian law firm LHD’s compensation claim against Russia and Putin in the European Court of Human Rights, says he is confident of success but admits the case, like that of Lockerbie, may take years.

The Malaysian Airlines’ Boeing (BA.N) 777 crashed in eastern Ukraine in pro-Russian rebel-held territory on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 people on board, including 28 Australians.

The aircraft, which was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile, the Dutch Safety Board concluded in its final report.

Skinner said he had no personal issue with Putin, but that the Russian president had opened himself to liability through his extensive control over the Russian state.

“Nothing happens in Russia that he doesn’t approve of, therefore vicariously he’s responsible,” Skinner said.

Skinner said evidence from witnesses, videos, photographs, radar, air traffic control tapes supported his compensation case.

“All of that stuff is available and even without the Russian’s contribution I am confident in saying that it was the Russians who caused this event to occur,” he said.

The lawsuit is on behalf of 16 victims from Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia, and 33 next of kin. Each claimant is seeking $10m.


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