Russia Rejects MH17 Guilty Verdict, Life Sentences

 - November 18, 2022, 11:07 AM
Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 registration 9M-MRD approaches Zurich in 1998. A Buk missile fired from Ukrainian separatist territory shot down the airplane in 2014, killing all 298 people on board. (Photo: Flickr: Creative Commons (BY-SA) by Aero Icarus)

The Dutch government summoned Russia’s ambassador on November 18 after the Russian foreign ministry rejected as “scandalous” the life sentences handed down to three individuals found guilty of shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. Judges in The Hague on Thursday found two former Russian intelligence officers and a Ukrainian separatist responsible for shooting down a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 in 2014 with a missile, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crewmembers.  

Russia has refused to extradite the three convicted men, Russians Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinskiy and Ukrainian Leonid Karachenco, all of which the court found belonged to a separatist group in eastern Ukraine sponsored by Russia. The court found another defendant, Oleg Pulatov, not guilty of the charges.

Russia has refused to extradite any of the convicted men, calling any such move illegal under Russian law.

According to the official website of the Dutch judiciary, de Rechtspraak, the court found conclusively that a Buk missile fired from a farm field near Pervomaiskyi in the separatist part of Ukraine took down Flight MH17.   

“The court has no doubt whatsoever that the MH17 was hit by a Buk missile fired from this farm field,” it said. “This is clear from photographs of a smoke trail in the sky, statements by a protected witness, satellite images, intercepted telephone conversations and transmission mast data, photographs and videos of a Buk Telar [missile launcher] being brought in and removed, and examination of fragments in the remains of a crew member and in the truss and the groove of the aircraft. Investigation in the Netherlands and abroad has not revealed any traces of evidence tampering. Alternative scenarios, for example, that the Buk missile was fired from a different area, are ruled out based on the evidence.”

The court did not determine why the separatists fired at the Boeing 777. However, it concluded that they brought the Buk Telar to Ukraine at the initiative of Dubinskiy, as the commanding officer within the illegally-occupied Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) enclave within eastern Ukraine.

In charge of organizing and directing the transport of the Buk Telar to and from the launch site, Karchenko played a direct and active role as executive commander, said the court. Kharchenko also ensured guarding and protection of the Buk Telar at the ultimate launch site. “These active contributions on his part were so important for firing the Buk missile, that Dubinskiy and Kharchenko worked closely and deliberately as co-perpetrators together and with the crew of the Buk TELAR in the downing of Flight MH17,” said de Rechtspraak.

As the highest DPR military leader in operational terms, Girkin bore final responsibility for the deployment of military resources in and for the DPR. He also actively endeavored to make the Buk TELAR disappear as quickly as possible, rather than condemning its use, leading to the court holding him responsible for the crash and the murder of the 298 people on board.  

Moscow, meanwhile, called the case “politically motivated” and the verdict biased by virtue of the Dutch prosecutors’ basing their conclusions on testimony from anonymous witnesses and data of “a dubious origin” from Ukraine’s Security service, according to state-controlled Russian news agency TASS.

"This is a very important message: we remain disappointed that Russia was not able to be involved and was not allowed to join the investigation that was conducted,” said Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov. “We are certain that the decision to bar the Russian side from the investigation at a minimum did not contribute to the probe’s impartiality."