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Three men found guilty of killing 298 people in 2014 by shooting down a Malaysia Airlines flight in Ukraine, sentenced to life imprisonment

Three men found guilty of murdering 298 people in 2014 shooting down of Malaysia airlines flight in Ukraine, sentenced to life imprisonment


A Dutch court has found three men guilty of murdering 298 people aboard flight MH17, which was shot down by a Russian surface-to-air missile as it flew over eastern Ukraine in 2014.

The court handed down life sentences to Russian nationals Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinskiy and a Ukrainian, Leonid Kharchenko, after finding them guilty of bringing down the plane and murdering everyone on board. They were ordered to pay “more than 16 million euros” in compensation to the victims.

The three men responsible are still at large and it is still unclear whether they will ever serve their sentences.

A third Russian national, Oleg Pulatov, was acquitted due to lack of evidence about his role in firing the missile.

In 2014, the four men were fighters of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, a pro-Russian separatist movement. None of the men appeared in court and only Pulatov chose to appoint attorneys, who pleaded not guilty on his behalf.

Presiding judge Hendrik Steenhuis said the court found the MH17 was shot down by a Russian-made BUK missile from an agricultural field in eastern Ukraine, citing extensive evidence that left “no possibility of reasonable doubt”.

The court found that Russia had overall control of separatist forces in eastern Ukraine at the time the plane was shot down, he said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said it was a significant court decision.

In a tweet, he said: “Holding the masterminds to account is also crucial, as the sense of impunity leads to further crimes. This illusion must be dispelled. punishment for all [Russia’s] the atrocities of yesterday and today are inevitable.

The verdict concludes a 32-month trial that began in March 2020 in a secure courtroom at Schiphol Airport, from where flight MH17 took off on July 17, 2014 bound for Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

Just hours into the flight, a missile exploded just above and to the left of the cockpit, causing the plane to disintegrate in flight, according to an international investigation. Everyone on board was killed.

The victims came from 17 countries and included 198 Dutch nationals, 43 Malaysians, 38 Australians and 10 from the United Kingdom. They were families with children, young couples and retirees, teenagers celebrating the end of exams, professionals going to conferences, a nun, a maritime worker returning home. Eighty of the victims were children.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, reacting to the judgment, said: “This is another step in the search for truth and justice for the victims and their loved ones. And as important as this verdict is, it’s not the final conclusion… It’s not the end. All parties will have the right to appeal, so the judgment is not yet final. But again, an important step was taken today.

The Netherlands and Australia said in 2018 that Russia was responsible for the disaster, after investigators concluded the BUK missile came from a Russian military base.

The Kremlin has always denied any involvement, while saying it was excluded from the investigation.

Girkin, who goes by the nom de guerre Igor Strelkov, was a commander in the separatist-backed forces in 2014. He is believed to have returned to the battlefield in Ukraine, raising dim hopes he could be captured and eventually face justice.

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