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8 years after MH17 was shot down, Dutch court sentences 3 Russians to life for killing 298 people

Mohammad Bilal
Mohammad BilalNov 18, 2022 | 13:57

8 years after MH17 was shot down, Dutch court sentences 3 Russians to life for killing 298 people

The Malaysian Airlines Plane MH17 crashed on June 17, 2014 killing all 283 passengers on board. Photo: Getty Images

A Dutch court in The Hague, The Netherlands, has sentenced three Russian nationals to life imprisonment for shooting down the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in 2014. The plane was carrying 298 people, including 80 children and 15 crew members. All of them died in the incident. 193 people who died in the crash were of Dutch nationality.

The presiding judge, Hendrik Steenhuis said, "The court takes the view that the MH17 was brought down by a Buk missile", launched from an agricultural field in eastern Ukraine.

The Buk missile is manufactured by Russia.

The fourth accused, Oleg Pulatov, a Russian, was acquitted due to lack of evidence. The court also asked all the three guilty men to pay at least 16 million euros in compensation.

Who were the four accused in the crash?

  1. Igor Girkin (also known as Strelkov), was a former colonel in Russia's FSB intelligence service, according to the prosecutors. He was given the minister of defence title in the rebel-held Ukrainian city of Donetsk.
  2. Sergei Dubinsky (known as Khmury) was employed at Russia's GRU military intelligence and he was the deputy of Mr Girkin. The investigators said that he was in regular touch with Russia.
  3. Oleg Pulatov, who has been acquitted due to lack of evidence, is a former soldier of GRU special forces and deputy head of intelligence service in Donetsk.
  4. Leonid Kharchenko is a Ukrainian national who has no military background, but he led a combat unit as a commander in the Eastern Ukraine region.
Wreckage of the plane MH17 in the eastern Ukraine. Photo: Getty Images

What happened on July 17, 2014? As per the Dutch air accident investigators, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 had left Amsterdam's Schipol Airport on July 17, 2014, and was due to arrive at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia. 

  • The plane suddenly lost contact with air traffic control at 1.20 pm GMT, when it was about 50 km (30 miles) from the Russia-Ukraine border.
  • Malaysia Airlines had initially said that the plane lost contact at 2.15 pm GMT.
  • Footage from the Donetsk area of Ukraine, which was a territory controlled by Russia-backed separatists, showed dozens of bodies of passengers on the ground.

What caused the crash? The Dutch Safety Board (DSB) said that a missile exploded on the left side of cockpit, and it caused the plane to break mid-air.

  • Upon investigation, it was found that the crash was caused by the detonation of a Russian-made 9N314M-type warhead carried on the 9M38M1 missile. It was launched from the eastern part of Ukraine using a Buk missile system.
  • As the missile hit the plane, the cockpit broke away first, but the plane continued the flight.
  • After a short while, the wing tips came off and the rear of the plane broke away, with the tail section disintegrating further.
  • After that, the main body of the plane crashed into the ground, upside down.

What did the investigation find? The plane had crashed in the rebel-held eastern Ukraine at the height of conflict between government troops and Russia-backed separatists.

  • The Dutch report had commissioned three separate investigations from the Dutch, Russian and Ukrainian bodies and said that the missile could have been hit from an area of 320 sq km in the east of Ukraine.
  • The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) and the government in Ukraine say that the missile was brought from Russia, launched from the rebel-held part of eastern Ukraine.
  • In 2018, the Dutch investigators concluded that the missile belonged to the Russian brigade.
  • However, Moscow's Defence Ministry rejected the allegations and insisted that none of its weapons were used to bring down the MH17.
  • Dutch Foreign Minister, Stef Blog, maintained that Russia was responsible for the deployment of the Buk installation that was used to down MH17. He said, "On the basis of (Joint Investigation Team's) conclusion, The Netherlands and Australia are now convinced that Russia is responsible for the deployment of the Buk installation that was used to down MH17," BBC reported.
  • After three of its citizens were sentenced by the Dutch court, Russia said that it would comment on the judge's statements after examining the decision.
Last updated: November 18, 2022 | 13:57
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