Dutch court convicts three MH17 suspects, acquits one
Eight years after all 298 on board died, two Russians and one Ukrainian are sentenced to life in prison for murder.
A Dutch court has sentenced three Russia-linked men and acquitted one for their alleged roles in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
Former Russian intelligence agents Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinsky and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, a separatist leader, were found guilty of murder and intentionally causing an aircraft to crash at The Hague District Court on Thursday.
All three were sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment. A fourth suspect, Russian Oleg Pulatov was acquitted.
“The court calls the proven charges so severe that it holds that only the highest possible prison sentence would be appropriate,” Presiding Judge Hendrik Steenhuis said.
It is unlikely the three men will serve their sentences anytime soon given they remain at large. Prosecutors and the suspects have two weeks to file an appeal.
The verdicts came eight years after the Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was blown out of the sky over Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 passengers and crew on board.
At the time, pro-Russian separatist rebels and Ukrainian forces were locked in a tense conflict.
Steenhuis said that evidence presented by prosecutors at the trial, which began in March 2020, proved that MH17 was brought down by a Russian-made Buk missile.
In another important finding, Steenhuis said that the court believed that Russia had overall control at the time of a separatist region in eastern Ukraine, the Donetsk People’s Republic. The crash scattered wreckage and bodies over farmland and fields of sunflowers.
The court’s decisions were immediately welcomed by Kyiv.
“It can be said that this is the strongest signal to the whole world, including Russia itself, that every war crime committed by the Russians will be documented, investigated and brought to a conclusion. No matter how much time it takes,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told the Reuters news agency.
The developments in the MH17 case come against the backdrop of Russia’s nearly nine-month-long offensive in Ukraine, where explosions rocked cities across the country on Thursday.
More to follow…