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MH17: British lawyers consider 'class action' against Russia over downed passenger jet

A team of lawyers from the UK has flown into Ukraine to investigate the possibility of bringing a lawsuit against the Russian President Vladimir Putin, on behalf of the relatives of victims of the downed passenger plane, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, reports the Daily Telegraph.

The tragedy of the crash of flight MH17 over disputed territory in Eastern Ukraine has played out on the television screens of millions around the world, with several countries suffering tragic losses after the passenger jet was shot out of the sky on 17th July 2014.

All 298 people on board were killed in the incident, allegedly caused by the firing of an SA-11 surface-to-air missile from what was rebel-held territory in Eastern Ukraine.

Intelligence from the United States suggests an SA-11 was fired from this territory in the moments before radio contact was lost with the Malaysia Airlines plane, and further intelligence suggests the Russian Army gave the rebels this missile system, prompting worldwide condemnation of Russia's role in the tragedy.

Now it seems that Russian President Vladimir Putin may face direct legal consequences from his country's support for the rebels who are thought likely responsible for the downing of flight MH17.

The Sunday Telegraph revealed over the weekend that a team of British lawyers from London firm McCue & Partners was in Ukraine to discuss the possibility of bringing a class-action lawsuit against Mr Putin on behalf of relatives of the victims of the tragedy.

The legal case is likely to be brought in the American courts, and would serve to highlight in open court the role that Russia has played in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, which ultimately led to the missile being fired at flight MH17.

A spokesman for McCue & Partners told the Sunday Telegraph that discussions were ongoing as the feasibility of a class action suit against the perpetrators of the tragedy:

"There has been talk of civil suits against Malaysia Airlines, but those immediately responsible are not only the separatists who are alleged to have fired the rocket at Flight MH17, causing the death of hundreds of innocent victims, but those, be they states, individuals or other entities, who provided them with financial and material support and the means to do so" he said.

A civil case will provide a lower burden of proof than would be necessary in a criminal trial, with a judgment possible if the evidence points to Russian involvement 'on the balance of probabilities'.

Compensation for victims could extend to hundreds of millions of pounds, which could be raised from asset-freezes against the Russian President and his advisors if they are deemed liable and refuse to cooperate with the US court.