MH17 Trial: Dutch Court Sentences Three Defendants to Life Imprisonment, Acquits Fourth
14:18 GMT 17.11.2022 (Updated: 14:54 GMT 17.11.2022)
© Sputnik / Maxim BlinovPieces of the Boeing 777 Malaysia Airlines (flight MH17) , which crashed in 2014 on the territory of Ukraine
© Sputnik / Maxim Blinov/
The verdict comes after years of controversial trials held in the Netherlands. Dutch judicial authorities willfully excluded the Russians from investigations into the plane crash and ignored evidence presented by Moscow.
A Dutch court has issued a verdict in the trial in absentia of three Russians and a Ukrainian over their alleged roles in the 2014 downing of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet and the deaths of all 298 people on board.
While Russian citizen Oleg Pulatov was acquitted, two others - Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinsky - as well as Ukrainian national Leonid Kharchenko were found guilty in the downing of the MH17 and sentenced to life imprisonment by the Hague District Court.
The three men were also ordered to pay compensation to the families of the 298 victims of the plane crash. The court estimated the total amount of compensation at over 16 million euros.
“The court cannot establish that Pulatov made any effort to use the Buk air defense system, therefore he cannot be considered a classic accomplice. There is no evidence that Pulatov was involved in the use of the Buk ... Thus, Pulatov was found not guilty, and the court rejects the demand of the prosecutor's office to place him in prison," Judge Hendrik Steenhuis said, announcing the verdict.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has already said that it would study the verdict.
While examining the evidence in detail, the court claimed that the plane was downed by a Buk missile fired from an agricultural field near Pervomaysky in Kharkov region. Judge Steenhuis also said that The Hague District Court ruled that the crash of the MH17 plane was connected to a non-international armed conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The court went on to claim that the Buk missile was delivered from Russia to Ukraine and then taken back to Russia, however, it's unclear as to who gave the command to launch the missile.
“The court is of the opinion that the Buk missile was fired with intent, since at that moment there was an opinion that the aircraft was military and not civilian,” Judge Steenhuis said.
Judge Steenhuis then said that the four defendants, Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov and Leonid Kharchenko were not a single group, but were "connected" to the use of the Buk system.
The tragedy of Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 Flight MH17 occurred on July 17, 2014, as the plane was flying over Ukraine en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. At the time, Ukraine was embroiled in a major crisis due to a violent February coup d’état in Kiev. The Donbass region refused to submit to the Kiev radicals and proclaimed their independence, becoming the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics.
The plane route over Donbass was approved by Ukrainian authorities despite the fact that Kiev's forces were engaged in military clashes with local militia there.
The aircraft was downed outside a village in the eastern part of the Donetsk People's Republic. All 298 people aboard died, among them 196 Dutch and 43 Malaysian (including the 15-member flight crew) nationals.
Kiev immediately blamed the DPR and Moscow for the crash, claiming that Russia provided the DPR militia with the missile system linked to the tragedy. At the same time, western countries rushed to place sanctions on Russia without probing the incident.
A Dutch-led Joint Investigative Team (JIT) formed in August 2014 to investigate the crash accused Moscow of involvement in the downing. Russia was not allowed to take part in the criminal probe, and any evidence provided by the country was ignored by the JIT.
In June 2015, with the JIT probe still underway, the Dutch government began preparations to create an international tribunal to prosecute those responsible. Amsterdam took its case to the UN, where Russia slapped it down as an attempt "to organize a grandiose political show, which only damages efforts to find the guilty parties."
26 January, 16:47 GMT
In September 2016, JIT investigators claimed that a Russian-made Buk 9M83 surface-to-air missile was used to shoot down the airliner, alleging that the missile system was actually brought to Donetsk from a Russian military base on the same day the aircraft was destroyed.
The accusations prompted the Russian military and Buk missile system maker Almaz-Antey to carry out their own comprehensive probes, with the Russian weapons manufacturer examining forensic evidence, declassifying top secret information about its military hardware, and carrying out a complex recreation of the events leading to the plane’s destruction involving ballistics, flight trajectory and other pertinent information. In September 2016, Almaz-Antey released its findings, concluding that the Buk missile used to destroy the Malaysian airliner was an older variant built in the 1980s, and which had been phased out of Russia’s arsenals in a modernization campaign - while the same variant was pretty much widespread in the Ukrainian military.
Moscow attempted to provide these findings to the JIT, which ignored them and continued to rely on its own "extensive comparative research," including the "expert opinion" of Bellingcat, a western intelligence front posing as an "open source intelligence research" service.
26 January 2021, 12:58 GMT
In 2017, Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders announced that the JIT would prosecute anyone found guilty for MH17 under Dutch law. In June 2019, three Russian nationals and one Ukrainian were charged, and international arrest warrants were issued against them. Their trial began in March 2020, with all of the accused tried in absentia. Prosecutors sought life sentences.
In July 2020, Amsterdam announced its intention to take Russia to the European Court of Human Rights for its “role” in the shoot down, with Moscow countering by filing its own case with the court accusing Ukraine of the crime in July 2021. Ukraine had likewise filed a case with the court in February 2021.
ECtHR proceedings were made immaterial in 2022, with Russian lawmakers moving to quit the court in June, citing western politicians’ efforts to turn the body into a kangaroo court against Russia. Moscow ceased being a party to the European Convention on Human Rights in September, six months after its expulsion from the Council of Europe.
2 November 2021, 11:27 GMT