MH17 trial: Russian suspect denies any involvement

Alexander Chizhenok

Oleg Pulatov, one of the four suspects, tried in absentia by the Netherlands for the murder of 298 passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, addressed Schiphol court in a video. The former Lieutenant colonel in the Russian Armed Forces said he had seen no sign of the type of missile allegedly used to bring down the aircraft.

On July 17, 2014, a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was shot down above Eastern Ukraine, near Donetsk. The 283 passengers (including 193 Dutch victims) and 15 crew members all died in the crash. 

In 2014, an independent journalist team named Bellingcat concluded that the weapon that brought down the plane was a Russian-made anti-air BUK missile. In 2018, the International Criminal Investigation Team (JIT) determined that the missile fired from an area controlled by the pro-Russian separatists was supplied by the 53rd anti-air brigade of the Russian army based in Kursk.

Four senior officers of the pro-Russian separatist faction are accused of being involved in the transportation of a Russian-made anti-air BUK missile system from Russia to Ukraine. They were charged with murder and are tried in absentia at the court of Schiphol, in Amsterdam. 

Mysterious chain of command

At the time of the crash, Pulatov was the deputy of Sergey Dubinsky, who was responsible for the intelligence service of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the secessionist pro-Russian state in Eastern Ukraine. On November 3, 2020, the Russian veteran chose to address the court via a video to deny the accusations. 

“Where I was there was no Buk and I don’t know if there was any elsewhere,” the accused said in a broadcast transmitted by his lawyers. “Even if I had pleaded with Russia for a Buk -  which military professionals know is used to protect strategic installations – Russia would not have granted it because the area is not strategic and that there are no important facilities there to protect.”

The International Criminal Investigation Team (JIT) is still working on identifying the people that actually shot the missile and if there was any involvement of Russian officials in the chain of command. Russia has repeatedly denied the conclusions of both Bellingcat and JIT investigations and put instead the blame on the Ukrainian army. From February 2021, the family members of victims should be heard by the court. Pulatov said he was ready to answer more questions, but refused to fly to the Netherlands where he would be detained.


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