A Dutch court has convicted two Russians and a Ukrainian of shooting down the Malaysia Airlines plane in 2014

A Dutch court has convicted two Russians and a Ukrainian of shooting down the Malaysia Airlines plane in 2014
A Dutch court has convicted two Russians and a Ukrainian of shooting down the Malaysia Airlines plane in 2014

A Dutch court has convicted two Russians and a Ukrainian of shooting down the Malaysia Airlines plane in 2014

  • Anna Hooligan and Kate Vandy
  • BBC News

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A reconstruction of the wreckage of MH17 was shown to the judges as part of the trial

A Dutch court has found three people guilty of first degree murder after they shot down a passenger plane in eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing 298 people.

The court found that a Russian-made missile, provided by Russia and fired by an armed group under Russian control, shot down MH17.

The three, Russians and Ukrainians, were sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia, while the court acquitted another Russian.

The rocket attack was one of Ukraine’s worst war crimes before allegations of atrocities became an almost daily reality there.

Many families of the victims believe that the invasion of Ukraine and the resulting geopolitical instability could have been avoided if the world had reacted differently and taken a harder line against Russia eight years ago.

The judges concluded that shooting down the plane was a premeditated act, although the three people found guilty intended to shoot down a military aircraft rather than a civilian aircraft.

  • Igor Girkin, the military commander of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, was found guilty of planting the missile and asking for Russian help
  • It was established that Sergei Dubinsky ordered and supervised the transfer of the Buk launcher
  • It was established that Leonid Kharchenko had monitored the Buk missile on the instructions of Dubinsky

Oleg Bulatov was the only one of the four defendants who had legal counsel at the trial. The judges acquitted him, although they found he had knowledge of the missile.

On July 17, 2014, 298 people, including 80 children and 15 crew members, boarded Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 bound for Kuala Lumpur at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

The plane flew at 33,000 feet over Ukraine. That was the beginning of Russia’s efforts to control parts of Ukraine.

At the time, this was a relatively low-level conflict zone, but fighting has recently spread to Ukrainian airspace and a number of military planes have been shot down in recent months.

In response, Ukraine closed its airspace at low altitudes – up to 32,000 feet – but planes were still flying over the country.

The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 flew over this restricted airspace at an altitude of 1,000 feet.

At 13:20 GMT the aircraft lost contact with air traffic control.

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Celine Fredericks lost her 23-year-old son when MH17 was shot down over Ukraine.

Most of the passengers came from the Netherlands, followed by Malaysia and Australia, and some were hoping to have a nice vacation, while others wanted to attend a conference to fight AIDS and still others wanted to visit their relatives. In the twinkling of an eye all her plans for the future were destroyed.

“I still miss her,” says Celine Fredericks, whose walls are adorned with pictures of her son Bryce and his girlfriend Daisy. The young lovers were on their way to Bali to have some fun after a difficult year.”

But Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 reopened barely healed wounds.

“It was heartbreaking for us,” says Celine. Celine believes the current conflict could have been avoided if the world had taken a harder line in 2014.

“Putin never stopped and he hasn’t been stopped yet. It won’t stop until it is stopped by force and I hope the world wakes up now because we knew what really happened eight years ago.”

Russia has always denied involvement, instead putting forward a number of alternative theories – suggesting that a Ukrainian warplane fired the missile or that Ukrainian government forces were responsible, and in some cases fabricated evidence to back its claims.

However, these allegations were contradicted by material collected by a team of international investigators and rejected by the Dutch court.

The investigative team determined that the aircraft’s disintegration in mid-air was due to the detonation of the warhead of a Russian-made 9N314M missile mounted on a 9M38M1 missile launched using the Buk missile system from the eastern part of Ukraine became.

Eliot Higgins, founder of the Bellingcat investigative platform, delved into the evidence, and his team found a link to Russia’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade by scrolling through the social media posts of 22 soldiers to discover the identities and roles of several members of the to confirm unit stationed in a Russian military barracks in Kursk. Bellingcat shared his findings with Dutch prosecutors. Higgins believes the trial has produced irrefutable evidence of Russian involvement.

“I think at this point, and especially with a guilty verdict, anyone claiming that Russia was not involved in the downing of the plane is really ridiculous,” he said.


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Daisy and Bryce were in row 17 when the plane was shot down

Based on these findings, Higgins believes the events of 2014 and 2022 are closely related.

“People just turned a blind eye, and policymakers didn’t want to criticize Russia in the way they should have. They didn’t respond in a way that could prevent an invasion in 2022. I think there could have been more should support,” he says. “There should have been more sanctions, there should have been a stronger response than we saw at the time. There should have been preventive measures that would have saved many lives.”

This trial is an opportunity to undermine Russian disinformation. The judges called an alternative version of the events promoted by Almaz-Antey, which manufactures the Buk missiles, fake and had not been independently evaluated.

“There was the same catastrophe, but I say the next catastrophe is that Russia never cooperated, which caused us all even more suffering,” says Hans de Borst, showing us vacation photos of his 17-year-old daughter Elsimek. We’re just sorry.”

image rights HANS DE BORST

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On board was Hans de Borst’s only daughter, Elsemic

De Borst still has the photos, passport and boarding pass that survived from the wreck.

The victims’ families had confidence in the investigations being conducted by the Netherlands.

“That’s very important to me,” says de Borst, “because that sense of justice has to be there in a world that kills people who go on vacation, if there’s no justice, you don’t feel like the world is good . So justice is yours.” In front of a lot of people it makes you feel good and I hope it gives you some peace about that.”

By stitching together clues, including wiretapped telephone conversations, eyewitness accounts and even metal fragments found in the crew’s bodies, investigators were able to identify the type of weapon and trace its trajectory – from a military barracks in Russia, across the border to a launch site in Russia Russia Loyalist-Separatist-Controlled Eastern Ukraine to Russia – and identify the main suspects.

They are three Russians and one Ukrainian, and the most prominent of them is Igor Girkin, who prosecutors say is a former KGB colonel.

The Kremlin refused legal action, and all suspects refused to appear in court. One suspect, Oleg Bulatov, hired a team of Dutch lawyers to defend him in court.

The verdict is unlikely to see anyone jailed for this mass murder, but the investigation has created an indisputable historical record and brought some relief to the families of the victims.

“Nothing will bring our children back to us, but we need to know the truth and we need justice. That’s a small part of our justice,” says Celine Fredericks.

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Hans de Borst said: “If there is no justice, you will no longer have the feeling that the world is good.”

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