Malaysian Airlines has seen some high-profile tragedies in recent years with flights MH370 disappearing shortly after take off and MH17 crashing near Russia and Ukraine. While we may never know what happened with MH370, the families of passengers aboard MH17 can now get some closure. Prosecutors looking into the MH17 crash have announced charges against three Russians and one Ukrainian for shooting down the plane with a missile.
The investigation into the crash of MH17 and deaths of 298 passengers have been on-going for the past five years.
Although in 2018, prosecutors said that the Buk missile that brought down MH17 in Donetsk village came from Russia, this is the first time prosecutors have announced chargers against four people.
Igor Vsevolodovich Girkin (48), Sergey Nikolayevich Dubinskiy (56), Oleg Yuldashevich Pulatov (52) and Leonoid Volodymyrovych Kharchenko (47) have been charged with shooting down MH17.
“The Public Prosecution Service alleges that four cooperated to obtain and deploy the BUK TELAR at the firing location with the aim of shooting down an aircraft. For that reason they can also be held jointly accountable for downing flight MH17,” said Joint Investigation Team (JIT) looking into the crash.
Girkin is a former colonel of the Russian Federal Security Service. At the time of MH17’s crash, he as Donetsk’s Minister of Defence and Army Commander.
“As the highest military officer he maintained contact with the Russian Federation,” said the JIT.
Dubinskiy was also a Russian military intelligence officer and one of Girkin’s deputies in 2014. Pulatov was a former officer in a Russian intelligence special unit who served as Donetsk’s head of intelligence.
Kharchenko, the only Ukrainan, was receiving direct orders from Dubinskiy as a rebel in Donetsk.
What happened to MH17?
On July 18, 2014, MH17, a Boeing 777 aircraft, took off from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport with 280 passengers and 15 crew members. The flight was scheduled to land in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, early next morning.
However, it crashed in Donetsk, Ukranian territory controlled by separatists near Russia and Ukraine’s borders. All 298 people on board were killed. Among them were 193 Dutch nationals, 43 Malaysians including the crew members, 27 Australians, 10 Britishers, 12 Indonesians, four Belgians, four Germans, three Philippinos, one Canadian, and one New Zelander.
80 children, including three infants, were killed, as well. Several HIV AIDS advocates were among the victims, including former President of the International AIDS Society Joep Lange. Vox reported that Lange’s death was a huge loss for the HIV community as it lost a “heavily engaged” activist.
At the time, Donetsk was in the middle of an armed conflict and prosecutors said that MH17 was shot by a Buk missile, the kind used by Russian military.
According to Bellingcat, an independent investigative group, the Buke missile launcher was smuggled across the Russian border into Ukraine where rebels fired it from a village called Pervomaisk.
The JIT, made up of agencies in Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, Ukraine and the Netherlands, investigated MH17’s crash and said that around 100 people were involved in the incident.
Head of Dutch National Police Crime Squad Wilbert Paulissen said that after sifting through evidence, about a dozen people were being suspected.
US intelligence argued that Russian-backed rebels who believed they were targeting a Ukrainan military aircraft were behind the attack. However, the rebels denied the allegations and blamed Ukraine instead.
Dutch officials anonymously told news outlets that Russia did not cooperate with the investigation, as well.
3 Russians, 1 Ukrainian to be tried for MH17 in the Hague
The JIT said that the Dutch Public Prosecution Service will prosecute the four men charged with shooting down MH17 and has already issued international arrest warrants and circulated their names and photographs.
Girkin, Dubinskiy, Pulatov, and Kharchenko have also been placed on international and national watchlists for wanted criminals.
“Three of the suspects have Russian nationality, the fourth is Ukranian. As the constitutions of both countries do not allow extradition of nationals, extradition will not be requested,” said the JIT.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has dismissed the charges saying they are baseless.
“We regret Joint Investigation Group statements of 19 June on alleged involvement of Russian servicemen in the downing of flight MH17. Russia is targeted by groundless accusations. Information provided by Russia to investigation still ignored,” said the Russian Mission OSCE on Twitter.
Russia adds that Ukraine has possibly forged evidence and that the itself was biased as it “focused on putting blame on Russia rather than on discovering truth.” The country added that it fully cooperated with the investigation but was not paid heed to.
Prosecutors have summoned Girkin, Dubinskiy, Pulatov, and Kharchenko to the Netherlands where they will be tried for causing MH17 to crash and murdering 298 people. Witnesses have also been called.
“The investigation is ongoing and will continue to focus on the crew of the BUK TELAR and on persons who were an important link in the decision-making in the Russian Federation on military support to Eastern Ukraine in 2014,” said the JIT.
The trial will begin on March 9, 2020, in a District Court at The Hague.
Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius
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