International investigators have charged three Russians and a Ukrainian with murder after accusing them of shooting down a Dutch passenger jet, killing all on board, 196 of whom were Dutch nationals
Four men named and charged with murder for shooting down Flight MH17, including two former Russian military intelligence officers
Ex-Russian FSB Col Igor Girkin, 49; Former GRU officer Sergey Nikolaevich Dubinsky, 62, former Russian Special services Oleg Pulatov, 53, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, 47, were named by Dutch prosecutors Wednesday
Separate research by Bellingcat laid out what role each of the men played in the tragedy, with Girkin at the top of the chain-of-command
MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 on board
Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier denied that Russia was responsible for downing the civilian aviation aircraft
Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier denied that Russia was responsible for downing of MH17
In May 2018 the Joint Investigation Team, [JIT ], concluded that MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile from Russia’s 53rd brigade
Dubinskiy, 62, was a former minister from the Russian military intelligence agency GRU, Pulatov was an ex-soldier in Russia’s Spetznaz special forces unit and Kharchenko a Ukrainian separatist.
Ukraine’s top prosecutor has said the country will try to arrest Kharchenko and, if he is detained, will arrange for him to be tried via video-link. If he is found guilty, Ukraine will impose a sentence.
Of the Russian suspects, Mr Westerbeke said ‘in the short term we will ask Russia to hand the summons to the suspects’ and will ‘ask for Russia to cooperate again with legal help.’
Separately, open-source intelligence site Bellingcat has published its own research into what role it believes each of the men played in downing the aircraft, with Girkin at the top of a chain-of-command linking the men together.
According to Bellingcat, the BUK missile used in the attack was moved from Ukraine back to Russia with Girkin’s help after MH17 was shot down.
Because he was in command of most of the other separatists linked to the missile, it is also highly likely he was aware the weapon system had been requested and helped to transport it into the country, the site says.
Girkin spoke out on Wednesday, telling Russia’s Interfax news agency that ‘I can only say that rebels did not shoot down the Boeing.’
Bellingcat claims Dubinsky requested a battle-ready BUK launcher to be sent to his help his forces in the southern city of Snizhne, in the full knowledge of how it would be deployed, based on intercepted phone calls which it analysed. Once the missile had been fired, Dubinsky was also involved in the removal of the BUK and transport back to Russia, the site says. Dubinsky’s subordinates Pulatov and Karchenko are alleged to have provided security for the BUK system at its launch site.
Their unit may also have played a key role in the decision to shoot down MH17, thinking it was an enemy aircraft.
Bellingcat also went further than Dutch investigators and identified another eight men it believes were also involved in the tragedy.
Two Russians were named among the same unit as Pulatov and Karchenko which may have fired the missile at MH17.
Three Soviet Ukrainians and one Russian were identified as part of a unit stationed at Horlivka which may have first identified MH17 as an enemy aircraft.
Two more Soviet Ukrainians were implicated as being part of the Vostok Battalion, one of the largest separatist units in eastern Ukraine in 2014, which helped transport the missile launcher.
Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: ‘You know our attitude towards this investigation. Russia had no opportunity to take part in it even though it showed initiative from … the very first days of this tragedy.’
Neither Russia nor the Ukraine extradites their nationals.
Wilbert Paulissen, national Police chief of the Netherlands, announces murder charges against three Russians and one Ukrainian. [Top L-R] Igor Girkin and Sergey Nikolaevich Dubinsky, [Bottom L-R] Oleg Pulatov, and Leonid Kharchenko, over the shoot-down of Flight MH17. Their trial begins March 2020
Families of the victims, 196 of whom were Dutch, were briefed on the investigation before information was given to journalists.
Speaking outside the press conference in Nieuwegein about the findings, Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand struggled to hold back her emotions. Fredriksz, whose 23-year-old son Bryce and his girlfriend Daisy were going on a dream holiday when they were killed in the disaster, held back emotions as she spoke.
Fredriksz, spoke of her relief that five years after the plane was blown out of the sky, someone was being held accountable.
‘It’s a start. I’m satisfied,’ she said. ‘I am happy that the trial is finally going to start and that the names have been announced.’
Asked if she personally blamed anyone for the crash, Fredriksz said: ‘Mr Putin. Because he made this possible. He created this situation.’
Mr Sweeney’s 28-year-old son Liam died alongside his friend John Alder on their way to watch Newcastle United play in New Zealand.
He said Liam’s mother had died two years ago but that he planned to travel to the Netherlands for the trial with other victims’ families.
‘I would like to go if I can, when I see all my friends out there, as they all know, it makes us stronger,’ Mr Sweeney said.
The development comes a year after the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team concluded that the missile which shot down the plane came from a Russian military brigade based in Kursk.
MH17 was on its way from from Amsterdam to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur when it was brought down.
Of those killed, 196 were Dutch and another 38 were Australian. Passengers from the UK, Canada, Malaysia, Germany, Belgium, Philippines and Indonesia also died.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt called on Russia to cooperate fully with investigators on Wednesday, describing the shoot-down as ‘a horrific crime’ and saying that families of the victims ‘deserve justice’.
The Joint Investigation Team, which seeks to try the suspects under Dutch law, has said the missile system came from the Russian 53rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade, based in the western Russian city of Kursk.
The Netherlands and Australia said in May last year that they formally ‘hold Russia responsible’ for the disaster, after the findings on the origin of the missile were announced.
‘After five years, it is finally clear that justice will be done. This is very important for surviving relatives,’ Piet Ploeg, president of a Dutch victims’ association who lost three family members on MH17, told AFP.
The Dutch safety board said in 2015 that the plane had been hit by a BUK missile, with the JIT reaching the same conclusion in 2016.
Then in May 2018 the JIT said MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile from Russia’s 53rd brigade.
They showed videos and animation of the BUK launcher as part of a Russian military convoy, using video clips found on social media and then checked against Google Maps, as it traveled from Kursk to eastern Ukraine.
Russia insisted last year that the missile was fired by Kiev’s forces, adding that it was sent to Ukraine in the Soviet era.
The war in eastern Ukraine is far from concluded, with over 13,000 people killed since 2014. The government of Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russia of funneling troops and arms to back the separatists.
Russia has denied the claims of interference launched by Kiev despite evidence to the contrary.