MH17 flight crash: life imprisonment required against suspects

Dutch prosecutors on Wednesday demanded life imprisonment against the four men prosecuted for the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17 which was flying over the is from Ukraine in 2014, accusing them of the murder of 298 people on board.

“We ask that the suspects Guirkin, Dubinsky, Poulatov and Khartchenko, each for their responsibility in the crash of a plane which caused the death and murder of 298 people, be sentenced to life imprisonment “, the maximum penalty, prosecutor Manon Ridderbeks told judges.

The Russians Sergei Dubinsky, Igor Guirkin and Oleg Poulatov, as well as the Ukrainian Leonid Khartchenko, four senior officers of the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, are accused of having shot down flight MH with a BUK surface-to-air missile.

None of the suspects made it to the trial, who started in March 2020 in the Netherlands.

Prosecutors claimed that the four men played a central role in delivering a BUK anti-aircraft battery from Russia, presumably intended to strike a Ukrainian warplane.

“If this was their intention, it does not change the accusation of making it a criminal act,” prosecutors said.

The law “does not distinguish between military and civilian aircraft”, they insisted.

The suspects used the BUK missile to serve their ” own military interests, “prosecutors said earlier this week.

They “did not press the button themselves, but (…) used it for their armed struggle with the aim of destroying a plane”, they insisted .

In addition, the suspects “knew (…) that civilian planes flew over the combat zone on a daily basis,” added the prosecutors.

Relatives of the victims applauded the sentences requested.

“”This is what we were hoping for,” Piet Ploeg, 71, president of the Vliegramp MH Foundation 17, who lost his brother, sister-in-law and nephew in the crash.

“There was 80 children on board (…) It’s awful (…) I’m very happy with today’s result, “Anton Kotte, who lost his son, told reporters. , her daughter-in-law and her grandson.

The hearings take place against a backdrop of growing Russian-Western tensions around Ukraine. Americans and Europeans accuse Moscow of preparing a military offensive there.

– Contempt –

An international team of investigators claims that the plane was shot down in- above the zone of armed conflict with pro-Russian separatists, in eastern Ukraine, by a missile sent from a Russian military base, probably in order to fight against Ukrainian forces. Moscow has always denied any involvement.

This year the court heard poignant testimonies from relatives of the victims who called on “corrupt” Russia to do justice.

Only Mr. Poulatov is represented by lawyers.

The prosecutors deplored the absence of the suspects, testifying according to them to their “contempt” vis-√†-vis the relatives of the victims, and said they feared a “repeat of violent acts” on their part.

Kiev has been fighting a pro-Moscow insurgency in two separatist regions bordering Russia since 2014, when the Kremlin annexed the Crimean peninsula to Ukraine.

– ‘Not at all surprised’ –

The most famous suspect, Igor Guirkine, 49 years, nicknamed “Strelkov” (“Gunner”), was one of the main separatist commanders at the start of the conflict.

Sergei Dubinsky, 57 years, would be linked to Russian military intelligence. Oleg Poulatov, 53 years old, is a former member of the Russian special forces and deputy to Mr. Dubinsky.

Leonid Khartchenko, 48, is said to have led a separatist unit in eastern Ukraine.

“The rebels did not shoot down the Boeing”, maintained Mr. Guirkine with the Russian press agency Interfax after the indictment, saying “not at all surprised” by the sentences claimed.

“Our evidence is convincing and abundant,” Digna van Boetzelaer, chief prosecutor in the case, told AFP.

Shortly before the announcement requisitions, the head of the Russian diplomacy Sergei Lavrov accused on the RT channel the United States of doing “double standards, two measures”, arguing that Washington had asked in the spring 2014 to its airlines not to fly over Russian territory near the Ukrainian border, where Moscow was carrying out military maneuvers.

“But in July 2014, when a real war was underway in the Donbass, nobody closed the airspace “, he stressed.

The verdict of the Schiphol court, near Amsterdam, located a stone’s throw away from the airport where the tragically fated Boeing had taken off, is not expected before the end 2022.

The trial will continue in March 2022, with the defense statement.

burs-jcp / sg