Long path to justice ahead for MH17 case

Foreign Minister Marise Payne says the MH17 charges are just the start of a long process.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne says the MH17 charges are just the start of a long process.

Australia will continue to play a major role in the case of downed Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, as the foreign minister warns the path to justice will be long.

Dutch prosecutors have charged four people - three Russians and a Ukranian - for downing the plane while it flew over eastern Ukraine in 2014.

All 298 people onboard died, including 38 Australians.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne says the charges and international arrest warrants are an important step in what will be a "long process".

"It's not going to be concluded overnight," she told ABC's AM on Thursday.

Australia is spending $50 million and has already deployed more than 500 federal police officers in support of the investigation into the ground-to-air attack.

Russians Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov and Ukrainian Leonie Kharachenko have been charged over the mass killing.

The four were officials in the pro-Russian Donetsk People's Republic and allegedly responsible for the Buk missile launcher being brought into the area from Russia.

International arrest warrants have been issued.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the work of the Australian Federal Police to date had been instrumental in the outcome.

"The AFP will continue to work with their counterparts from the Netherlands, Belgium, Ukraine and Malaysia as part of the Joint Investigation Team which is determined to pursue all possible suspects," he told reporters in Sydney.

"Our commitment to bring the perpetrators to justice remains firm."

Australia's funding will go directly towards the Dutch prosecutions to ensure an Australian role in the criminal proceeding, including the participation of next of kin. It will also help continue the operation of the Australian embassy in Kyiv.

Julie Bishop, who was foreign minister at the time of the attack, says Russia needs to comply with the investigation.

"Russia has long waged a disinformation campaign against the joint investigation team. There have been cyber attacks targeting the investigation," she said.

Ms Bishop says the grieving families will be relieved charges have been laid and credit the investigation team for being "extremely thorough and diligent and independent".

Russia's Foreign Ministry has rejected the charges as "absolutely unfounded" and criticised investigators for using "dubious sources of information" and ignoring the evidence provided by Moscow in order to "discredit the Russian Federation".

Australian Associated Press