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Families to sue over MH17 crash

German relatives of three people killed in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 plan to sue Ukraine for negligence, a lawyer for the families has said.

Weekly publication Bild am Sonntag reported that lawyer Elmar M Giemulla intends to file a suit at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, demanding a million euros (£787,000) compensation for each victim.

MH17 was shot down on July 17 over territory held by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, with 298 people killed. A recent report by authorities in the Netherlands, where most of the victims came from, stopped short of blaming either side.

Mr Giemulla, a Berlin-based specialist in aviation law, argues that Ukraine should have closed its airspace if it could not guarantee the security of planes above the conflict zone.

"Since that didn't happen, Ukraine is liable for damages," he said.

Mr Giemulla said other victims' families could join the suit and a separate claim could later be filed against Russia, if sufficient facts are uncovered to prove its involvement.

"For this I'm dependent on the support of Western governments," he said.

Western leaders have accused Moscow of arming the rebels, though there is no evidence it ordered the plane to be shot down.

While Malaysia Airlines could be faulted for flying over dangerous territory, the company too should be considered a victim, Mr Giemulla said.

He criticised the maximum compensation of 140,000 euros (£110,000) allowed under an international treaty, saying it was intended to prevent airlines from going bankrupt, not protect governments that contribute to such disasters.

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