What does the verdict in the MH17 case mean for Ukraine, Russia and the world
❗️ On November 17, the judges at the Schiphol Judicial Complex of the District Court of The Hague delivered a verdict in the case of the Malaysian Boeing 777 flight MH17, shot down in the sky over the occupied Donbass.
☝️ On July 17, 2014, a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 operated a scheduled flight MH17 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
Near the village of Grabovo (on the territory of the Donetsk region controlled by Russian troops), the plane was shot down by a missile fired from the Buk anti-aircraft missile system (SAM). All 298 people on board were killed, including 193 citizens of the Netherlands (one passenger also had US citizenship), 42 citizens of Malaysia (28 passengers and all 15 crew members), 27 citizens of Australia; 12 Indonesian citizens, 10 British citizens; 4 German citizens, 4 Belgian citizens, 3 Filipino citizens, 1 Canadian citizen, 1 New Zealand citizen. There were 80 children among the passengers. The plane crash became one of the 10 biggest in the history of aviation.
A specially created Joint Investigation Team, which included representatives of law enforcement agencies from the Netherlands, Ukraine, Malaysia, Australia and Belgium, took up the criminal and technical investigation of the MH17 case. Russia refused to send its representatives to this group, which it called politicized and biased. The international investigative team that conducted the investigation was led by Dutch prosecutor Fred Westerbeke.
The first hearing in the District Court in The Hague took place on March 9, 2020, and the consideration of the case on the merits began in June 2022. The investigation team did a great job (analyzed more than 5.5 billion pages of information on the Internet, studied more than 1.5 million telephone calls in the missile launch area and along its route, interrogated more than 260 people as witnesses, conducted more than 3 thousand various expert research), as a result of which all alternative versions were rejected and only one remained, confirmed by all the evidence and evidence collected.
Namely, the Boeing 777 flight MH17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile from the Buk air defense system, which was in service with the 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade of the air defense forces of the Russian Armed Forces (deployed near Kursk). On July 13, on the eve of the disaster, the air defense system was transported to the occupied part of Donbas because of the section of the border with the Russian Federation not controlled by Ukraine. That same night, this Buk was returned back to Russia.
❗️ The Joint Investigation Team identified three citizens of the Russian Federation and one citizen of Ukraine as accused in the attack on MH17:
✅ Russian citizen I. Girkin (“strelkov”) – a former FSB officer, at the time of the downing of the plane called himself the “Minister of Defense” of the “DPR” group. It was he, according to the investigation, who, shortly before the disaster, turned to the Russian “authorities” in the Crimea and Moscow with a request to provide heavy weapons. In addition, he was involved in the transportation of the Buk from Russia to the territory not controlled by Ukraine and back, after the release of the MH17 missile from the air defense system;
✅ Citizen of the Russian Federation S. Dubinsky (“gloomy”) – Colonel of the reserve of the GRU of the Russian Federation, at that time a “Major General” in the “DPR” group, who controlled the transportation of the Buk. In the intercepted telephone conversations, you can hear how he controls the movement of the SAM;
✅ citizen of the Russian Federation o.pulatov (“gyurza”) – lieutenant colonel of the reserve of the Airborne Forces of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, deputy Dubinsky, who accompanied and guarded the Buk at the launch site near the town of Snezhnoye;
✅ citizen of Ukraine L. Kharchenko (“Mole”, according to Air Force sources, received Russian citizenship) – “the commander of the DPR intelligence unit”, who was next to the Buk immediately after the MH17 was shot down from it and after the strike on the passenger Boeing 777 transmitted the order to send the air defense system back to Russia.
From the very beginning of the investigation, Russia categorically denied any involvement in the downing of MH17 and lobbied for the investigation of alternative versions, which boiled down to blaming Ukraine for the disaster.
❗️ The trial, which took place in the Netherlands, was unprecedented.
For his sake, they even changed the criminal procedure legislation of the Netherlands (in particular, they allowed hearings to be conducted in English, they changed the rules of the court in the absence of the accused).
The court found convincing evidence that flight MH17 was shot down by a Buk missile that was brought from Russia to Ukraine and then taken back and the Russian military was in control of the “DPR” at the time of the downing of the liner.
On November 17, the District Court of The Hague found Gorkin, Dubinsky and Pirozhka guilty of the crash of the Malaysian Boeing and sentenced them to life imprisonment. The court ruled to take them under arrest and pay more than 16 million euros in compensation to the families of the victims. The fourth defendant, Pulatov, was found not guilty. The verdict in the case was read out without all four defendants on the international wanted list.
☝️ Reaction to you the verdict of the Hague court in Russia and the world community was predictable.
✅ Ukraine welcomed the verdict in the MH17 case.
The President of Ukraine stressed the need for those who ordered this crime to be in the dock. M. Podoliak, adviser to the head of the President’s Office, considers it important that the perpetrators bear real responsibility and go to jail.
✅ In an official statement, the US State Department called the verdict of the court in The Hague “a serious step”, but noted that there is still a lot of work to bring all those responsible to justice. Thomas Shansman (father of 18-year-old Quinn, who was the only American on board the plane) congratulated the verdict and noted its importance: “I’m glad to hear that the court has ruled that Russia is responsible.”
✅ Australian Prime Minister Penny Wong demands that Vladimir Putin extradite those convicted in the case of the MH17 accident and not hide the killers.
✅ The Russian Foreign Ministry reacted hysterically to the court’s decision and stated that they did not recognize the verdict of the Hague District Court, since “it was based on a political order,” and the court “imposed a politically motivated conclusion.” The department accused the court of “adjusting the appropriate evidence base for the guilty verdict” and “neglecting the facts that contradict it.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry also repeated the narrative about “unprecedented pressure” on the court from Dutch politicians, representatives of the prosecutor’s office, and the media. A. Klishas, Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Constitutional Legislation and State Building, said that Russia would not extradite Russians convicted in the MH17 case to the Netherlands, allegedly because of a direct constitutional ban on the extradition of Russian citizens to foreign states.
❗️ The decision of the District Court of The Hague to shoot down flight MH17 was a landmark event for the West and proved that Russia is a terrorist state, and as long as it continues to commit its crimes, no one can be safe.
It was the crash of MH17, the majority of whose passengers were Europeans, that changed the EU’s attitude towards the war against Ukraine.
Many of those who before July 17, 2014 believed that this was a “foreign war” realized that this was also a war against them.
After all, although formally the court found guilty the Russian puppets headed by I. Girkin, in reality the Kremlin authorities headed by Putin and his henchmen stand behind this crime.
☝️ It is already clear today that the trial that has just ended will not be the last in the case of the Boeing crash, and subsequently there should be cases against other people accused of the crash.
This was confirmed by the head of the International Investigation Team, Fred Westerbeke, who stated that his task was to “expose the entire chain – from the crew of the Buk to those who ordered this Buk to go on a mission on July 17, 2014.”
Westerbecke said his group has information on about 100 people linked to the downing of flight MH17. The Dutch prosecutor’s office stated that it considers V. Tsemakh as a suspect in this case, who in the summer of 2014 was an anti-aircraft gunner of the so-called. army of the DPR (after the arrest by the Ukrainian security forces, it was issued to Russia as part of a prisoner exchange).
Other defendants in the case involved in the downing of the plane are the chain of command in the Russian Federation – from the first deputy head of the FSB border service, A. Burlak, to the commander of the 53rd Air Defense Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces, Colonel S. Muchkaev (according to investigators, the Buk is precisely this brigade on July 17, 2014 ended up in a field near the town of Snezhnoye).
According to the head of the MH17 investigation team, Ding van Butzelar, the prosecutor’s office will make a decision on opening other cases of the Boeing crash early next year.
[Writer Irina Mirochnik is the President at IMMER Group & Doctor of Philosophy in Law(PhD)]
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