Three soldiers from a pro-Russian separatist arm were convicted of murder in connection to the deaths of 298 passengers on board flight MH17.
The Hague District Court, Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam found Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy and Leonid Kharchenko guilty of 298 murder counts and “unlawfully creating an airplane to crash”. They were sentenced for life imprisonment
Oleg Pulatov, fourth defendant, was acquitted by the court after it was found that he did not have prior knowledge of the plans to fire the missile. The court also stated that he did not have the authority over Dubinskiy’s order for the missile to be found.
Family members of victims will receive compensation in the amount of EUR16m (PS14m). The victim’s family will also be entitled to compensation of EUR16m (PS14m) from the prosecution and the suspects.
Hendrik Steenhuis, a judge at Hague District Court, found that MH17 was destroyed in July 2014 by a Russian Buk missile from an area of eastern Ukraine.
“The court can already declare it took a view that MH17 had been brought down by a Buk rocket launched from an agricultural field in the Russian-held Luhansk Region of Ukraine,” he stated.
Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-370 was shot down in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. All 283 passengers and 15 crew were killed.
This incident led to a geopolitical fracas in Russia’s first invasion of eastern Ukraine. MH17 was later destroyed.
Russia denied any responsibility. However, the Dutch government held Moscow accountable. The incident was described by Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president at the time, as “terrorism”.
Dutch made up two-thirds of the passengers on the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
The judge stated that even though the men believed that the Boeing 777 was being targeted “in error” because they believed it was a military plane, this does not negate the intent to destroy the plane and kill everyone onboard.
Shortly after the verdict, foreign secretary James Cleverly posted: “Guilty. Three people were found guilty of murder in connection to the sinking of MH17. This landmark conviction is a significant step towards justice for victims and their families.
“I want to thank the exceptional efforts of the Dutch authorities, and the Joint Investigation Team.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zilenskyy wrote that “A significant court decision in The Hague.” First sentences for those responsible for downing MH17. All atrocities committed by the Russian Federation [RF] are subject to punishment.
The immunity granted to soldiers in war was not available to these four men because they were not combatants.
Despite the public attention of a lengthy trial, the defendants weren’t likely to be sentenced and they remain free. Three of the defendants were tried in absentia, while one pleaded guilty through lawyers he hired. None of the witnesses attended the trial.
Onboard MH17 were also 43 Malaysian citizens, 27 Australians and a dozen Indonesians.
According to the Associated Press, around 200 relatives of victims were in court today.
Eight-year-long wait for justice is over
A flood of help ended the most difficult of situations.
Three men, two Russians, and one Ukrainian, were found guilty of the downing of flight MH17 and killing 298 people. The verdict was met with smiles and hugs.
It was the culmination of eight years of waiting for justice. Russia won’t extradite these men, but there is a good chance they will serve their sentences.
Hendrik Steenhuis was the chairman of the panel. He spent almost two hours reading through the verdict. He stated that there was no chance that anyone on the aircraft would survive an attack by a Buk missile.
Some of the details were quite striking. Some victims could only be identified by a small bone fragment, while others were scattered over large areas. A fragment of the Russian-made Buk missile was found in a body, supporting the evidence that the plane was attacked.
Almaz-Amtey’s Russian arms company, which produces Buk systems, provided information that he said was subject to “fraud” and “misinformation.” He said that the missile system was brought from Russia and returned to his country to avoid “international outcry”.
However, despite all the joy and relief, no one was pretending this case didn’t come against the backdrop of complete misery.
Robert van Heijningen told me that his brother, sister in law, and nephew were all murdered.
It’s always at your back. He said, “I call it a rock in my heart and it doesn’t disappear.”
Pieter Langstaat was a lawyer representing many of the grieving families. He said that he was emotionally affected by the verdict and thanked the families for their stoicism, respect, and determination. He was also clear that the guilt did not end with the guilty men.
He said that the Russian Federation was responsible for mass killing – 209 victims.” “This is unambiguous.”
Anton Kotte, father of his son, daughter and grandson aged six, died in MH17.
He said that the hearing was a D-Day for his relatives.
Robbert van Heijningen lost his nephew, brother-in-law, and sister-in law to the attack.
Van Heijningen said, “I call it an stone in my heart. And stones… don’t disappear.”
The Kremlin supported separatist army in eastern Ukraine, the Donetsk People’s Republic, was quickly under suspicion.
It was discovered that the missile that brought down the 777 was a Russian-made Buk Rocket.
A Dutch investigation had previously found that the DPR was responsible.
The inquiry concluded in 2019 after five years. It led to criminal proceedings against Russian nationals Girkin and Dubinskiy, as well as Ukrainian national Kharchenko.
In May 2018, a separate investigation revealed that the launcher used for firing the surface-to air missile belonged to Russia’s 53rd Anti–Aircraft Missile Brigade. This unit is part of Russia’s armed forces, and is based in Kursk.
– With evidence proving that it was transported from a Russian base across to Ukraine.
The team recreated the route used by the missile convoy to reach eastern Ukraine via videos and images based on open source intelligence (OSINT).
Wilbert Paulissen, an international investigator, stated that all the vehicles carrying the missile in a convoy were Russian armed forces.
Girkin, a former FSB Colonel who was made a commander in DPR, got the most attention during the trial.
“A slap in front of victims’ families”
Fred Westerbeke, the chief prosecutor, stated in 2019 that Russia’s failure to assist the investigation that led the to the charges was a “slap on the face” for the families of the victims.
He stated that “we have established that Russia was involved because they made the missile used to shoot down MH17.”
“The Russian Federation has not revealed anything about what happened, which is a slap in all of the victims’ families. I urge them to begin cooperating.”
Vanessa Rizk from Australia, who lost her parents in the crash at the age of 22, claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government was part of the “political nightmare”, which led to the grief she experienced.
She stated in 2021, “I still can’t fathom that our familia is caught up in an frustrating and deadly political crisis.”