BERLIN, September 11. /TASS/. The Netherlands has changed the status of Donetsk People’s Republic citizen Vladimir Tsemakh, who was previously considered a "person of interest" and was brought to Russia in a swap between Moscow and Kiev, into suspect in the investigation into the Malaysian Boeing 777 crash in Ukraine in 2014, the German Deutsche Welle state-owned public international broadcaster reported on Wednesday citing Dutch Member of the European Parliament Kati Piri.
According to the politician, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) and the Dutch prosecutor circulated a letter stating that Tsemakh is now considered to be one of the suspects. Piri underlined that Kiev’s decision to include him in the swap list was a painful one for her country and families of the victims.
On September 7, Moscow and Kiev swapped prisoners on the ‘35 for 35’ formula. Preparations for the prisoner swap intensified after Vladimir Zelensky had been elected Ukraine’s president. Several weeks ago, the negotiations entered an active phase and legal procedures began for the two countries’ nationals who had been added to the list. On September 5, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the exchange would be massive and might be a step towards mending bilateral ties.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, a Boeing-777 passenger plane travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down on July 17, 2014, over Ukraine’s eastern region of Donetsk. The crash killed all the 283 passengers, citizens of 10 countries, and 15 crewmembers. In spite of the active armed conflict on the ground, Kiev did not close its airspace over the Donbass region to international passenger flights. The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) looking into the crash is made up of representatives from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine. Russian officials have repeatedly expressed doubts and distrust of the results of its work, pointed to the groundless nature of arguments the accusations are based on and unwillingness to use Russian conclusions in the course of the investigation.
In June 2018, Ukrainian intelligence agencies abducted Vladimir Tsemakh, a resident of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and former DPR air defense militia commander. He was secretly taken to Kiev from across the line of contact in Donbass. The DPR authorities demanded that their citizen be returned and called on international human rights organizations to intervene. According to DPR head Denis Pushilin, Ukraine abducted Tsemakh with the intention to fabricate the circumstances of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash.
Tsemakh was among those released on September 7 in accordance with the agreement reached by Russia and Ukraine to swap detainees. Prior to his release, Tsemakh was interrogated by Dutch prosecutors.