Flight MH17 was shot down by Russian-made missile, Dutch court confirms in long-awaited ruling

17 November 2022, 13:53 | Updated: 17 November 2022, 14:18

Judges give their ruling in the trial of four men for shooting down MH17
Judges give their ruling in the trial of four men for shooting down MH17. Picture: Getty

By Stephen Rigley

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by a Russian-made missile in 2014, a Dutch judge confirmed as the long-awaited verdict into the disaster is finally delivered.

Three Russians and a Ukrainian are on trial for their alleged roles in the aviation disaster, in which a Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was blown out of the sky over Ukraine, killing all 289 passengers and crew members.

The mid-air explosion and crash on July 17, 2014 happened amid a conflict between pro-Russia rebels and Ukrainian forces.

Presiding Judge Hendrik Steenhuis opened Thursday's hearing saying that the court's view is that the MH17 was brought down by a Russian-made Buk missile launched from an agricultural field in eastern Ukraine.

In another important finding, Steenhuis said that the court believed that Russia had overall control at the time of a separatist region in eastern Ukraine, the Donetsk People's Republic.

Judges deliver ruling in the trial of four men for shooting down MH17
Judges deliver ruling in the trial of four men for shooting down MH17. Picture: Getty
298 Crew And Passengers Perish On Flight MH17 After Suspected Missile Attack In Ukraine
298 Crew And Passengers Perish On Flight MH17 After Suspected Missile Attack In Ukraine. Picture: Getty

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Victims' representatives say the ruling will be an important milestone, though the suspects, all of whom face life sentences, remain fugitives.

They are all believed to be in Russia, which will not extradite them.Moscow denies any involvement or responsibility for MH17's downing and in 2014 it also denied any presence in Ukraine.

Prosecutors say the suspects, three former Russian intelligence officers and a Ukrainian separatist military leader, helped arrange and transport a Russian army BUK missile system into Ukraine that was used to shoot down the plane.

The suspects are Russians Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy, and Oleg Pulatov; and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko.

They were charged with shooting down an airplane and with murder in a trial held under Dutch law. They could alternatively be convicted of manslaughter charges if judges at the Hague District Court find the act was not premeditated.

Phone call intercepts that formed a key part of the evidence against the men suggested they believed they were targeting a Ukrainian fighter jet.

Three of the men were tried in absentia and the fourth pleaded not guilty via lawyers he hired to represent him. None attended the trial.

Victims of MH17, which had been en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, came from 10 different countries. More than half were Dutch and 10 were British.

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