MH17 verdict all defendants convicted in flight downing

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AMSTERDAM — A Dutch court on Thursday convicted two Russians and a Ukrainian of murder in the 2014 downing of a Malaysia Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine, an attack that killed all 298 passengers and crew on board.

The conviction of the defendants — two former Russian security service officers and a Ukrainian national who commanded pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region — implicates the Russian government. Moscow has long denied responsibility for the jet’s destruction and refused to extradite the defendants or cooperate with investigators. A third Russian defendant was acquitted.

The defendants were not present at the trial and are not in custody. Those convicted are Igor Girkin, a former colonel of the FSB, Russia’s security service, who later served as defense minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic; Sergey Dubinsky, a former GRU officer, the Russian military intelligence agency; and Leonid Kharchenko, a Ukrainian commander of separatist forces in Donbas.

They were sentenced to life in prison, although they may never be captured.

The fourth defendant, Oleg Pulatov, who served in a GRU special unit, was acquitted for lack of evidence. Pulatov was the only defendant to send lawyers to defend him at trial, and he had previously asked the court for an acquittal, saying he played no part in the incident.

The verdict followed a years-long investigation into who fired a Buk surface-to-air missile that hit the Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014, leaving bodies and wreckage scattered across fields in eastern Ukraine.

The incident took place during fighting between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces in an area where several Ukrainian military jets were shot down in the weeks leading up to the destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

Russia has long maintained that it was not a party to the 2014 conflict in Donbas and that it had no control over pro-Russian fighters in Donetsk, where the four defendants held senior positions as part of the separatist militias.

However, the court found that Moscow financed and armed separatist forces in Donetsk and generally controlled the breakaway region and its authorities.

The court also ruled that the Buk launch was intentional, but that the suspects most likely believed they were firing at a military aircraft.

“The verdict cannot bring back the deceased,” said chairman Hendrik Steenhuis. “But there is clarity about who is to blame.”

Here’s what we know about the four suspects accused of downing flight MH17

After the verdict was announced, the relatives of the victims cried and hugged each other.

“This is a good and balanced verdict, in which three people received the highest possible sentence and Russia’s role in this was confirmed,” said Piet Ploeg, who lost his brother, sister-in-law and cousin. “I feel relieved that justice has been done.”

“We applauded, we were happy that after eight years we could finally hear the truth,” says Thomas Schansman, whose 19-year-old son Quinn was on the plane. “There are many more people who could go behind bars for this, but what I want now is for Putin and the Russian government to recognize their responsibility.”

The Kremlin not only denied involvement, but also tried to label the investigation as politically biased. It promoted various explanations for how the plane was shot down, from blaming the Ukrainian government to dismissing evidence in the case as fabricated.

In Russia’s first official comment on the verdict, the Foreign Ministry dismissed the decision as a “political order”.

Dutch detectives have gone to great lengths to refute Moscow’s claims by publishing a detailed timeline of the strike and outlining its role the defendants played a role in delivering the missile system to the launch site in Pervomaiskyi and the subsequent downing of the aircraft.

Investigators down plane over Ukraine accuse 4 suspects of ties to Russian intelligence, pro-Moscow militia

Many relatives of Flight 17’s victims have suggested that this year’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia could have been averted if the international community had pushed back harder against Moscow in the years since the plane was shot down.

“Despite evidence to the contrary, the West was happy to accept the idea that separatist groups in Ukraine were not just proxies of the Russian Federation so they could turn a blind eye to Russian aggression,” said Eliot Higgins, Bellingcat’s founder. , which linked the Buk missile system to the Russian 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade and shared its findings with the Dutch researchers.

Higgins added: “Had the West resisted Russian aggression in 2014, we might have avoided the situation we are in today.”

Two days before the verdict, a rocket landed in a Polish village, near the Ukrainian border, killing two men. Warsaw said it was likely a stray Ukrainian air defense missile, but the incident was yet another example of Russian aggression with deadly consequences for innocent bystanders.

Girkin, who served as commander of the Kremlin-backed separatist forces in Donetsk, once boasted that he had “pulled the trigger on war” in Ukraine. For years he lived safely in Russia, but recently disappeared from sight in Moscow and reportedly returned to the frontline in Ukraine last month.

Girkin is believed to have been the highest-ranking military officer in direct contact with Moscow at the time the plane was shot down, and is believed to have helped transport the Buk missile system. He has previously said he felt “a moral responsibility” for the mass deaths of passengers, but denied playing any direct role.

In mid-October, Girkin wrote on his popular Telegram blog that he had rejoined the “active army”. Girkin often uses the blog as a platform to vehemently criticize Russia’s military strategy in Ukraine. His wife, Myroslava Reginska, shared a photo of Girkin, who is also known as Igor Strelkov, in a military uniform.

After reports that Girkin had returned to the front, Ukrainians launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise a $100,000 bounty for his capture.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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