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Dutch court says MH17 downed by Buk missile, rejects Russia’s arguments

Three out of the four defendants in the case were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment

MOSCOW, November 17. /TASS/. A Dutch court began ruling on the case of the 2014 Malaysia Airlines Boeing crash in eastern Ukraine on Thursday. Judge Hendrik Steenhuis refused to accept Russia’s arguments and came to the conclusion that the passenger aircraft had been downed by a Buk missile fired from near the Pervomayskoye settlement, which at the time, was controlled by Donbass militias.

Three out of the four defendants in the case were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said that Moscow would scrutinize the Dutch court’s decision. Russia’s former Permanent Representative to the EU Vladimir Chizhov noted that the result of the trial came as no surprise.

Experts interviewed by TASS believe that the defendants are highly likely to appeal the sentence.

TASS has collected the basic facts about the trial.

Plane crash

- Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala-Lumpur crashed in the then Donetsk Region of Ukraine on July 17, 2014.

- The crash killed 298 people from ten countries.

Charges in the case

- In June 2019, the Joint Investigative Team (JIT) announced that it had identified a group of four people suspected of being involved in the incident. A trial began on March 9, 2020.

- The defendants in the case included former militia leader in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) Igor Girkin, also known as Igor Strelkov, and his subordinates Sergey Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov and Leonid Kharchenko.

- The trial took place in the absence of the accused, with two Dutch lawyers representing Pulatov’s interests.

- Charges were filed on two counts, including the destruction of an aircraft resulting in the death of all persons on board (Article 168 of the Dutch Criminal Code) and the murder of 298 persons aboard the flight (Article 289 of the Dutch Criminal Code).

- The prosecution demanded life imprisonment for the defendants. The relatives of the victims are seeking to receive up to 50,000 euros in compensation for each of the victims.

Court’s ruling

- The court believes that the Malaysia Airlines Boeing crashed following the launch of a Buk missile from a field near the Pervomayskoye settlement that was controlled by the DPR.

- The court found that evidence provided by an expert from Russia’s Almaz-Antey company, showing that the missile had been launched from a Ukraine-controlled area near the Zaroshchenskoye settlement, was unconvincing and even "fabricated."

- Three out of the four defendants - Girkin (Strelkov), Dubinsky and Kharchenko - were found guilty and sentenced in absentia to life in prison. However, the court acquitted Pulatov.

- The court does not view the conflict between Ukraine and Donbass militias as an international one but believes that DPR representatives were linked to Russia.

Trial-related issues

- The charges were based on the fact that the four defendants were involved in the transportation of the Buk missile that allegedly hit the plane. Phone records provided by Ukrainian intelligence agencies were taken as evidence.

- The court refused to review alternative scenarios of the developments, rejecting the defense’s requests. Pulatov’s lawyers, for example, suggested the possibility of an erroneous launch of a Ukrainian Buk missile.

- The owner of the Buk missile was mentioned only in the Dutch police’s report, while the Netherlands Forensic Institute failed to give an opinion as to whom the missile launcher belonged to.

- The Russian authorities emphasized that the prosecution’s arguments were unfounded. Calculations made by Almaz-Antey experts showed that the missile that downed the aircraft could have been fired from near the Zaroshchenskoye settlement controlled by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. However, the investigation did not take Moscow’s information into consideration.