Amsterdam, June 19 (IANS) Three Russians and one Ukrainian, allegedly involved in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over rebel-held eastern Ukraine in 2014, would be tried for murder in the Netherlands, the joint investigation team (JIT) probing the tragedy said on Wednesday.
“We have decided to prosecute four suspects for downing flight MH17,” said Fred Westerbeke, a lead investigator for JIT. “This is the start of the Dutch criminal proceedings,” he said.
All 298 passengers and crew aboard the Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight were killed when it was hit by a Buk surface-to-air missile while flying above the conflict zone near Donetsk on July 17, 2014.
A court case will begin in the Netherlands on March 9, 2020. International arrest warrants have been issued for the four.
At a press conference in Nieuwegein city, Dutch National Police chief Wilbert Paulissen named the suspects as Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov and Leonid Karchenko, Efe news reported.
Girkin was the so-called Donetsk People Republic’s (DPR) Defence Minister when flight MH17 was downed, Dubinsky was his deputy and a former member of Russia’s GRU intelligence service, Pulatov was head of the DPR’s intel service and Karchenko, who has no military background on record, commanded a unit in Donetsk.
The first three were of Russian nationality and probably resided in Russia, the JIT said. Karchenko is of Ukrainian nationality and is presumed to live in eastern Ukraine, where the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic are still at war with the central Ukrainian government.
According to the open-source investigative website Bellingcat, which has collaborated with the investigation, Dubinsky received the Buk missile from Russia, Pulatov escorted it and Karchenko assured its passage back across the border into Russia.
The JIT, bringing together experts from Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine, previously presented evidence that claimed the Buk missile used in the downing of MH17 belonged to the Russian military and had been brought from across the border into the insurgent-held areas of east Ukraine.
It was fired from an agricultural area not far from the town of Pervomaiskiy before being returned to the Russian Federation.
The investigation into the downing of the plane had been hampered by lack of sufficient access to the key areas of interest, many of which remain behind the frontlines of the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, the JIT said.