MOSCOW, November 1. /TASS/. A former commander of the Donetsk militia’s air defense unit Vladimir Tsemakh, whom the Dutch authorities regard as a witness in the 2014 MH17 flight disaster over Donbass, denied having information about the case.
"They do not have anything against me at all, because I was not involved in those events," Tsemakh said in an interview the Rossiya-24 television channel aired on Friday.
Asked about what he knew about the circumstances in which the plane was shot down, Tsemakh replied: "Everything that everybody else knows. To my recollection I learned about it in the evening or even the next morning," Tsemakh added.
Following service in the Soviet Army and retirement in 1992 he returned home to the town of Snezhnoye, in Donbass. In 2014, when Kiev began the crackdown operation in the east of Ukraine, he joined the militias and was put in charge of an air defense unit in Snezhnoye. His unit had two air defense systems and two portable air defense launchers. In 2017, Tsemakh left the Donetsk militia for health reasons.
The Ukrainian secret services who kidnapped him last summer and also investigative officials from Australia and the Netherlands who questioned him were trying to make him testify Russia and the Donetsk militia were involved in the loss of flight MH17. Tsemakh said he was threatened with a life sentence for participating in the Donetsk militia and promised that if he agreed to make the desirable statements, he would be made immune from punishment and provided with housing in the Netherlands. However, he refused to make the expected depositions. Tsemakh was released in a Russia-Ukraine swap of held persons in the summer of 2019.
MH17 flight disaster
A passenger Boeing-777 of Malaysia Airlines (flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur) was shot down over the Donetsk Region of Ukraine on July 17, 2014. All 298 people on board — citizens of ten countries — died. Although hostilities were underway on the ground in this area at that moment, Kiev had made a decision not to close the airspace over Donbass to international passenger flights. Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands and Ukraine created a Joint Investigation Team. Malaysia, whose plane was lost in the disaster, was invited to join in only four months later. All of Russia’s offers of help with the investigation were rejected.
In June 2017, all JIT member-countries made a decision that the suspects in the MH17 disaster would be tried in a Dutch court and in accordance with Dutch laws. The Dutch prosecutor’s office, which leads the JIT, would file the lawsuit and present the facts.
At a news conference on May 24, 2018 JIT specialists said that the air defense launcher that had fired the fatal missile might have been brought from Russia’s 53rd air defense brigade. Russia dismissed these charges, saying that not a single Russian air defense launcher had ever crossed the Russian-Ukrainian border. The missile mentioned in the JIT report had been dispatched to a military unit stationed in the territory of Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, back in 1986.