Monday 14 October 2019

Four charged with murder over downed flight MH17

Russian nationals Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy and Oleg Pulatov, as well as Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko. Photo: Eva Plevier/Reuters
Russian nationals Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy and Oleg Pulatov, as well as Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko. Photo: Eva Plevier/Reuters

Roland Oliphant

Four men with links to the Russian military have been charged with murdering nearly 300 people on board an airliner shot down over Ukraine.

Dutch investigators issued international arrest warrants for Igor "Strelkov" Girkin, Oleg Pulatov and Sergei Dubinsky, all Russian nationals, and Leonid Kharchenko, a Ukrainian. The men are accused of procuring and organising the deployment of the Russian missile launcher that shot down flight MH17 in 2014.

Announcing the charges yesterday, Fred Westerbeke, the Dutch chief prosecutor, condemned the Kremlin for trying to obstruct the investigation.

"We have the proof that the Russian Federation was involved in this tragedy one way or another," he said. "Russia has not provided any information...and that is a slap in the face of all of the relatives of the bereaved."

All 298 people on the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, died when it was blown out of the sky by a Russian-made Buk missile on July 17, 2014. Ten Britons were among the victims, about two thirds of whom were Dutch. It was the bloodiest single day in the war between Ukrainian troops and Russia-backed separatist forces that has killed about 13,000 people.

Russia has always denied involvement. But Australia and the Netherlands said last year that they held Russia legally responsible and would seek reparations. The Dutch-led joint investigation team, which also includes Australian, Malaysian, Belgian and Ukrainian investigators, said the men named yesterday were instrumental in bringing the Buk 9M38 missile involved into Ukraine from Russia.

All were senior members of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DNR), a separatist movement funded and directed from Moscow. Mr Girkin, a former officer in Russia's Federal Security Service, was the DNR's "minister of defence" and top military commander at the time.

Mr Dubinsky, Mr Pulatov and Mr Kharchenko ran the DNR's military intelligence service, which is believed to have controlled and escorted the Buk missile launcher on the day of the downing. Investigators say Mr Pulatov and Mr Dubinsky are serving or former members of Russia's GRU military intelligence agency.

Mr Westerbeke said he was "realistic" about the prospects of bringing the suspects, who live in Russia and separatist parts of Ukraine, to trial.

Investigations into the chain of command would continue, he added, and detectives were anxious to speak to soldiers from the 3rd battalion of Russia's 53rd air defence brigade, which they believe provided the weapon and crew.

He would not say how far up the Russian chain of command the probe might go, but among evidence presented was a telephone conversation in which Alexander Borodai, then DNR leader, asked Vladislav Surkov, an adviser to Vladimir Putin, for military reinforcements. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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