UNITED NATIONS — Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council draft resolution on Wednesday that would have set up an international tribunal to prosecute those suspected of downing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.
Eleven countries on the 15-member council voted in favor of the proposal by Malaysia, Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium and Ukraine, while three countries abstained: China, Angola and Venezuela.
Malaysia's Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told the council after the vote that it sent a "dangerous message of impunity to the perpetrator of this heinous crime."
Flight MH17 was shot down in July 2014 with 298 passengers on board, two-thirds of them Dutch. It crashed in Ukrainian territory held by Russian-backed separatists.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, told the council that "no veto will stand in the way of this heinous crime being investigated and prosecuted."
"Efforts to deny justice only intensify the pain of the victims' families, who have already endured more than any of us can fathom," she said. "It is the effect of Russia's veto today."
Ukraine and Western countries accuse the rebels in eastern Ukraine of shooting down the plane with a Russian-made missile. But Moscow has rejected accusations it supplied the rebels with SA-11 Buk anti-aircraft missile systems.
Russia had proposed its own rival draft resolution, which pushed for a greater U.N. role in an investigation into what caused the downing of the aircraft and demanded justice, but it would not have set up a tribunal.
Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said it was premature to set up an international tribunal. He said the draft resolution was submitted for a vote by Malaysia and its co-sponsors with the knowledge that it would be vetoed.
"This in our view indicates the fact that political purposes were more important for them than practical objectives. This of course is regrettable," Churkin said.