| 10.1°C Dublin

Tell us truth, families urge Putin on eve of MH17 trial

Close

Tribute: A picture of victims of the MH17 crash on empty chairs during a protest outside the Russian Embassy in The Hague. Photo: Reuters/Piroschka van de Wouw

Tribute: A picture of victims of the MH17 crash on empty chairs during a protest outside the Russian Embassy in The Hague. Photo: Reuters/Piroschka van de Wouw

REUTERS

Tribute: A picture of victims of the MH17 crash on empty chairs during a protest outside the Russian Embassy in The Hague. Photo: Reuters/Piroschka van de Wouw

Relatives of the victims of the MH17 air disaster have called on the Kremlin to come clean about its role in the shooting down of the plane as three Russians go on trial in the Netherlands.

Hundreds of relatives of the 298 passengers and crew killed in July 2014 on the Malaysia Airlines flight will gather in Amsterdam today for the opening of the trial, which follows a five-year investigation involving five countries.

Igor "Strelkov" Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky, and Oleg Pulatov, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, are charged with the murders of all 298 people.

But none of the accused men, who are believed to be in Russia, is expected to attend, and only Mr Pulatov has appointed a defence team. Russian law forbids the extradition of citizens to face criminal charges.

"You know we have to do it just to prove that we are civilised and if someone does wrong you have to go to court and explain yourself. That's how we do it here in the West," said Robby Oehlers, whose cousin Daisy Oehlers and her boyfriend Bryce Fredriksz were killed on MH17.

"As long as they come clean, say, 'We made a mistake, it's our fault, we gave the order,' that is the most important thing."

Piet Ploeg, who lost his brother, Alex, his sister-in-law and his nephew, said families weren't accusing Russia of downing the Boeing 777.

"But we are having a protest against the lack of co-operation of the Russian state in the investigation of the downing of MH17. And we want them to co-operate and stop obstructing the investigations."

Jordan Withers, whose uncle, Glen Thomas, was one of 10 British passengers killed, said: "I think if the people who did it owned up, it would be so much easier for us. We wouldn't have to go through this heartache and relive it all again."

Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down as it flew over an area of Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists fighting a war of secession.

Dutch prosecutors say it was shot down by an SA-11 Buk missile launcher from the Russian army's 53rd air defence brigade, which had been deployed in support of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic.

Russia has never admitted to deploying troops to the area and denies any part in the MH17 disaster.

Yesterday, the victims' families set out 298 white chairs outside the Russian Embassy in The Hague as a protest against Moscow's lack of help in the investigation.

The white chairs - laid out in rows like seats in an airplane - represented the victims who died. The families stood in silence for two minutes after arranging the chairs.

Investigators said last year there was "almost daily telephone contact" between the self-proclaimed leaders of the pro-Russia rebel Donetsk People's Republic "and their contacts in the Russian Federation" using secure phones provided by the Russian security service."

Irish Independent