News Men who shot down MH17 must die in prison, prosecutors say

Men who shot down MH17 must die in prison, prosecutors say

Twitter Facebook Reddit Pinterest Email

Dutch prosecutors have demanded life sentences for three Russians and a Ukrainian charged with murder over the shooting down of a passenger jet over Ukraine in 2014.

They said the defendants, who are all at large, helped supply a missile system that Russian-backed separatists used to fire a rocket at Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. All 298 people on board were killed.

Prosecutor Manon Ridderbeks demanded life terms for all four, named as Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov and Leonid Kharchenko.

Most of the victims were Dutch nationals while 38 were Australian.

Outside the courtroom on Thursday morning (Australian time) Piet Ploeg, who lost his brother, nephew and sister-in-law in the crash, said he had waited a long time to hear the prosecution make its recommendation.

“It’s a relief that the prosecutors demanded the maximum sentence,” he told reporters.

Even if the four men were never jailed, “it is just as important that the world knows who was responsible,” he said.

The Dutch government holds Russia responsible for the MH17 disaster. Authorities in Moscow deny involvement.

After years of collecting evidence, an international team of investigators concluded in May 2018 that the launcher used to shoot down the aircraft, which was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, belonged to Russia’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade.

The Russian government has refused to take responsibility for the shooting down of MH17. Photo: Getty

Summing up their case this week, prosecutors gave an overview of evidence they say proves the men were linked to Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine and were “fully responsible” for downing the jet.

All of the accused men have denied involvement in media interviews which were shown in court.

Relying on satellite images, social media posts and intercepted phone calls, prosecutors say the four men worked together to get a Buk missile system from Russia into eastern Ukraine to reinforce separatists.

In recordings played to the court, men identified by the prosecution as the suspects could be heard discussing moving “our Buk” to a field from where flight MH17 was attacked.

They then celebrated the success of “our boys” when they brought down what they mistakenly thought was a Ukrainian military plane.

The target turned out to be MH17.

The team probing the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine asked Russians for information.

Prosecutors argued that legally it made no difference that they intended to shoot a military plane.

“They wanted to shoot down a plane and they succeeded,” prosecutor Thijs Berger said.

Their trial started 20 months ago.

Only Pulatov has sent lawyers to represent him while the others have not co-operated with the court and are being tried in absentia.

Closing arguments from Pulatov’s lawyers are expected early next year and a verdict by the end of 2022.