June 19, 2019 Dutch prosecutors on Wednesday announced the first criminal charges in connection to Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash that killed all 298 passengers and crew nearly five years ago.
An international team of investigators identified four suspects in an ongoing criminal case against those responsible for taking down MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur over Ukraine.
Members of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) announced in The Hague on Wednesday that three Russian nationals and one Ukrainian would be charged with murder over the attack on the commercial airliner.
The four suspects are accused of facilitating the transport of the missile used to shoot down the jet from Russia into Ukraine. JIT investigators said evidence showed a direct line of military command between Ukrainian separatists and Russia.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Dutch National Police Chief Wilbert Paulissen identified the suspects as Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov, from Russia and Leonid Kharchenko, from Ukraine. Paulissen said their trial in the Netherlands would start in March.
JIT investigators requested that Russia extradite the 3 suspects who are currently on Russian soil, but say the criminal trial will take place even if the suspects are not in court.
Thee four men are not accused of firing the missile that took down the plane but of acquiring the missile with the goal to shoot a plane. The four men will be charged with criminal responsibility for the shooting down as well as with the murder of the 298 passengers and crew.
“In Dutch law, if they play an organizing role they are just as liable as those who committed the crime,” Paulissen said.
In the days after the July, 2014 plane crash, U.S. intelligence officials said pro-Russian rebels were responsible for shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, but believed the rebels didn’t know the plane was a commercial airliner when they opened fire.
In the immediate aftermath of the plane crash, Ukraine’s director of informational security, Vitaly Nayda said the person who shot down the flight was “absolutely” a Russian.
“We know for sure that several minutes before the missile was launched, there was a report” to a Russian officer that the plane was coming, Nayda said.
Russia continues to deny involvement in the plane crash, blaming Ukraine and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency for shooting down the flight. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday rejected the JIT’s findings because Russia wasn’t “given the opportunity to take part in” the investigation.