Three Dutch criminals were found guilty in the shooting down of an aircraft carrying 298 passengers over eastern Ukraine.
A Russian-made missile, supplied from Russia, was fired by an armed group that was under Russian control and brought down flight MH17.
The two Russians, one Ukrainian, were found guilty and sentenced in absentia to life in prison. One third Russian was also acquitted.
Before atrocities were made almost every day, the missile attack was one of Ukraine’s most well-known war crimes.
Many relatives of victims feel that the invading Ukraine and subsequent geopolitical instability could have been prevented if the world had reacted differently eight years ago.
The judges ruled that the act was deliberate to bring down an aircraft. This even though the three defendants had intended to target a military plane and not civilian aircraft.
- Igor Girkinthe military leader in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic was convicted of having deployed the missile and sought Russian help
- Sergei Dubinsky has been found to have ordered the transport of the Buk rocket launcher.
- Leonid Charchenko was discovered to have oversaw the Buk, acting according to Dubinsky’s instructions.
Oleg Pulatov, the only of the four charged, was represented by a lawyer at the trial. He was not acquitted, even though the judges found that he knew about it.
298 people, 80 children and 15 crew members, boarded Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, 17 July 2014.
The plane was hovering at 33,000ft above Ukraine. It was early days for Russia’s attempt to control some parts of Ukraine.
Although this was a low-level area of conflict, fighting had recently increased. In the following months, a number military planes were shot down.
Ukraine responded by closing airspace at lower altitudes, up to 32,000 feet. However, planes still crossed the country.
Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 flew 1,000ft above this restricted airspace.
At 13:20 GMT it lost contact to air traffic control.
From 17 countries, 298 were aboard, including 196 from the Netherlands and 43 from Malaysia. 38 came from Australia. 10 were from the UK. They had packed for family reunions, dream holidays and an Aids conference. They lost all their hopes for the future in a flash.
Silene Fredriksz said that “I still miss them,” with walls filled with photos of her son Bryce, and Daisy. They were going to Bali for a special treat after a difficult year.
Move forward to 2022 when Moscow invaded Ukraine in February, causing barely healing wounds.
Silene states, “It’s heartbreaking for us.” She believes that the conflict in the present could have been avoided, if the world had taken an even harder line in 2014.
“Putin has not been stopped. Silene stated, “He will not stop until it is stopped.” Because we all knew it eight years ago, I hope the world wakes now.
Russia has never denied any involvement, but instead suggested a range of alternate theories – suggesting that a Ukrainian fighter jet launched the missile, or that Ukrainian government troops were responsible. Sometimes, even fabricate evidence to support their claims.
These allegations were in turn debunked by an international team of investigators. They were then rejected by the Dutch court.
The Russian-made 9N314M-type warhead was detonated on the 9M38M1 rocket. It was launched from eastern Ukraine using a Buk missile. This caused the plane to disintegrate in mid-air.
Bellingcat’s founder Eliot Higgins explored open source evidence. His team found links to Russia’s 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade and looked through 200 soldier’s social media posts to confirm their identity and the roles of many soldiers based at Kursk’s Russian military barracks. Bellingcat shared his findings to Dutch prosecutors. He believes that the trial has revealed indisputable proof about Russia’s involvement.
Eliot stated that Russia is not implicated in the shootdown, and that this was his opinion at this point.
Eliot Higgins’s findings suggest that the events in 2014 and 2022 are closely connected.
“People turned their blind eyes to it. The policymakers weren’t content with calling out Russia as they ought to. They did not react in a manner that could have prevented the invasion 2022. There should have more military support for Ukraine. There should have also been more sanctions. We should have had a stronger response than what was happening at the time. Preventative measures could have saved many lives.
The trial provided an opportunity for Russian disinformation to be exposed. A different version of events promoted in the Buk missile maker Almaz-Antey was rejected by the judges as it was falsified. It was not independently evaluated.
“There was also the disaster itself. However, the next disaster, according to me, was Russia’s inability to cooperate. That caused additional pain for us all. Is that really necessary? Hans de Borst explains to us that he is sorry and shows us holiday pictures of Elsemiek (17 years old)
He still holds onto the memories and Elsemiek’s passport, and boarding pass, that were recovered from the wreckage intact.
The investigation by the Netherlands was a faith-based investment made by families living at the heart of the MH17 catastrophe.
He says it is “extremely important to me,” and he continues, “because it’s that feeling of justice being done in a universe that kills people who go on holiday.” If justice isn’t being done, then you can’t feel that there is a good world. It is a positive feeling to have justice brought to your attention by so many people. This will hopefully bring some peace.
Investigators used a variety of clues, including eyewitness accounts, intercepted phone calls, and metal fragments from the crew to determine the weapon type, track the route it took, and identify key suspects.
They include three Russians, and one Ukrainian. Igor Girkin, a former colonel in Russia’s intelligence service, the FSB, is the most prominent.
The Kremlin dismissed all legal proceedings, and all suspects declined to appear in court. Oleg Pulatov represented himself in court with a team made up of Dutch lawyers.
While it is unlikely that anyone will be sentenced to prison for the mass murder of this victim, the investigation has established a historical record which can be relied upon and provided some relief for the families.
Silene Fredriksz agrees that they will never be able to get their children back, but we need the truth. We also need justice. This is just a small portion of our justice.”