International investigators: 3 Russians, 1 Ukrainian responsible for shooting down Malaysian Airlines MH17
Joint Investigation Team: Enough evidence for murder charges to be presented to court
International investigators from Joint Investigation Team (JIT) have accused three Russians and one Ukrainian of 2014 downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, saying they collected enough evidence for murder charges to be presented to the Dutch court.
The court will decide whether the four suspects are responsible for the terrorist attack that claimed 298 lives. The plane was shot down by a Buk surface-to-air missile over eastern Ukraine amid an armed conflict between Ukrainian government and pro-Russian insurgents. Most of the victims were Dutch passengers.
The JIT accused pro-Russian terrorists of shooting down the civilian plane. The top suspect is Igor Girkin, a Russian national, who was a senior insurgent commander under the nom de guerre Igor Strelkov at the time. The other suspects are his fellow anti-Ukraine insurgents and Russian nationals Sergey Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov as well as Leonid Kharchenko, a Ukrainian.
The investigators concluded that the four people were responsible for bringing a Buk missile launcher into Ukraine from the Russian territory and using it to shoot down flight MH17. The probe noted that the tragedy may have happened by accident, with the rebels believing that they were targeting a Ukrainian warplane. That, JIT says, does not make the crime any less serious.
The JIT said three of the suspects are currently in Russia while the fourth is in Ukraine. The Netherlands will issue international arrest warrants for the four individuals, but won’t seek extraditions, since neither Ukraine nor Russia are allowed to extradite its citizens due to their respective constitutions. This makes it unlikely that any of the four individuals would stand before the court, once it begins in March 2020, the JIT said.
Girkin denies the allegations by reiterating that he and his men were not responsible for the downing of the ill-fated flight.
The JIT includes representatives from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, Ukraine and the Netherlands.
“Ukraine welcomes the conclusions of the Joint Investigation Team on MH17. The President of Ukraine hopes that… those who are guilty of this brazen murder of innocent children, woman and men, will be put in the dock,” recently elected President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a statement.
Moscow stands accused of providing the Buk launcher and missile, an allegation that it vehemently denies.
UK-based group Bellingcat published its own report with a longer list of people, whom it accused of shooting down the airliner. The four suspects named by the JIT are on that list.