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One of four suspects on MH17 crash case denies his responsibility - attorney

Russian national Oleg Pulatov is the only one of the four suspects in case MH17 crash case whose defense attorneys are present at the trial

SCHIPHOL /The Netherlands/, March 9. /TASS/. Russian national Oleg Pulatov, the only one of the four suspects in case MH17 crash case whose defense attorneys are present at the trial that opened on Monday, denies his guilt, his defense attorney, Sabine then Dusschate, said on Monday.

According to the attorney. Her client’s position is that he bears no responsibility for the MH17 crash and all its consequences. That is why he decided to defend himself. His defense attorneys have conducted their own investigation based on thorough analysis of the findings of the Joint Investigation Team and its work.

The defense puts the focus on the fact that the Ukrainian side had not closed its airspace over the conflict zone in Donbass. This matter was raised by the Dutch parliament but the Ministry of Justice and Security claimed that this fact had never been part of the criminal investigation. The defense attorneys insist it had been a wrong option not to close the airspace.

The other three suspects are not represented by attorneys at the trial that is why their position is not voiced in the courtroom.

The Boeing-777 passenger plane operated by Malaysian Airlines crashed in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, while en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. A total of 298 people, citizens of 10 countries, were killed in the crash. The parties to the armed conflict in Donbass traded blame over the tragedy.

Despite active combat actions, Kiev did not close airspace over Donbass for international passenger flights. The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was set up to investigate the tragedy, consisting of representatives from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine.

In June 2019, the JIT said it had identified four individuals suspected of being involved in the MH17 crash. They are three Russian nationals Igor Girkin, also known under the nickname of Strelkov, Sergei Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov and a Ukrainian national, Leonid Kharchenko. The trial began in the Netherlands on March 9. A team of two Dutch and one Russian attorneys represents Oleg Pulatov’s interests. The other three suspects are tried in absentia.

Russia’s authorities have repeatedly voiced doubt over the JIT’s findings, pointing to the lack of evidence and its reluctance to take into account Moscow’s conclusions made during the investigation.

Analysts say the trial may take up to five years or longer. The outcomes are uncertain as of yet. Some say they hope for independence and unbiasedness of the Dutch judicial system whereas others say the judges have no options other than bring in the verdict of guilty. Moreover, both the defense and prosecution sides can challenge the verdict, whatever it might be.

Meanwhile, the investigation continues. It was reported on March 8 that the countries of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing into the downing of the MH17 flight in Ukraine had extended the cooperation agreement. It is not ruled out that charges may be brought against more individuals.