Prosecutors charge four in downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17

World Today

In the Netherlands, the international team leading the investigation into the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 has charged three Russians and a Ukrainian separatist with the murder of 298 people on board the plane that was shot down over Ukraine.

Russia continues to deny any involvement.

CGTN’s Mariam Zaidi reports.

It’s been nearly five years in the wait for justice for the families of the victims of doomed Flight MH17 – shot down over eastern Ukraine.

At a news conference in the Netherlands on Wednesday, the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team said it had four suspects and evidence that Russia provided the missile launcher that helped bring the plane down. The flight was on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

“Today, we will send out international arrest warrants for the four suspects that we will prosecute: Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov and Leonid Kharchenko,” Dutch Chief Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said.

Prosecutors believe Russian Igor Girkin was not only a colonel in the Russian intelligence service but that he was the highest ranking military official in the rebel-held eastern Ukrainian city Donetsk at the time of the shoot down. He denied involvement on Wednesday.

“I don’t want to comment apart from to say that the insurgents did not shoot down the Boeing. I didn’t give any comments (at the time) and I won’t (now). My position hasn’t changed,” Former Donetsk People’s Republic Military Chief Igor Girkin said.

Russia’s ministry of foreign affairs issued a statement calling the findings “absolutely unfounded” and “aimed at discrediting” Russia. Russian officials also disputed allegations they have refused to fully cooperate with the investigation at any time.

The trial is set to start in the Netherlands on March 9, 2020. But as both the Russian and Ukrainian constitutions prohibit the extradition of nationals, the four can’t be forced to face justice for the crimes they are accused of. But prosecutors say will try them in absentia if necessary.