MH17 trial: Court examines evidence against four suspects

Alexander Chizhenok/Shutterstock

In the Netherlands, the trial of the suspects in the shootdown of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014 resumed on June 7, 2021. 

Initiated in March 2020, the case will judge in absentia the Russians Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov, and the Ukrainian Leonid Khartchenko, four senior officers of the pro-Russian separatist faction. Pulatov is the only one with legal representation at the court.

They are all accused of being involved in the transportation of a Russian-made anti-air BUK missile system from Russia to Ukraine that shot down the Boeing 777 as it was flying at an altitude of over 33,000 feet (10,000 meters), on July 17, 2014. 298 people were killed, including 196 Dutch nationals. The four men risk prison terms of 30 years.

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.

“The court will open the MH17 criminal trial proper and, through examining and discussing the content of the prosecution file, elucidate the key questions which it has already begun to address,” the court wrote in a statement. “Was flight MH17 shot down by a BUK missile? Was a BUK missile fired from an agricultural field near Pervomaiskyi? Did the accused play a role in this?”

The first part of the trial should last for three days, before giving the prosecution and defense an opportunity to raise issues in hearings that will last until July 9, 2021. As for relatives of the victims, they should be heard in September 2021.

The Russian government reacted to the news of the trial resumption, reminding that it had been left out from the investigation. “This is a process, which is under a watchful eye, and certainly, we know all the information, which is considered there,” Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told TASS.


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