Four pro-Russia militia men accused of shooting down MH17 aircraft, killing all 298 passengers and crew, have gone on trial for murder today – despite still being on the run
- Sergey Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov and Igor Girkin are all believed to be in Russia
- They held senior positions in pro-Russia militias when MH17 was shot down
- Surface-to-air missile killed all 298 passengers and crew on July 17 2014
- Suspects remain at large and trial began without them in Dutch capital today
Four pro-Russia militia men accused of shooting down the MH17 aircraft, killing all 298 passengers and crew, have gone on trial for murder today despite still being on the run.
The plane was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was hit by a surface-to-air missile on July 17 2014.
Prosecutors say the suspects helped arrange the Russian missile system used to shoot down the civilian aircraft over territory held by pro-Moscow rebels fighting government forces in eastern Ukraine.
The defendants, Russians Sergey Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov and Igor Girkin and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, each held senior positions in the pro-Russian militias a at the time. The suspects, all of whom are still at large, are believed to be in Russia.
The four have waived their right to attend the hearings, which will continue without them, a Dutch court ruled today.
Wilbert Paulissen, national Police chief of the Netherlands, announces murder charges against three Russians and one Ukrainian over the shoot-down of MH17
Chairman of the MH17 Disaster Foundation, Piet Ploeg (left), arrives on March 9, 20120 in Schiphol, for the opening of the trial of four men accused of murder
Pictured: The reconstructed wreckage of the MH17 airplane is seen after the presentation of the final report into the crash
‘Many people have long waited for this day,’ presiding Judge Hendrik Steenhuis said in opening remarks. ‘This tragic loss of so many lives has touched many all over the world.
‘The court wants to say it realises the impact of the loss of so many human lives and that the way it happened was almost incomprehensible.’
Igor Girkin (left) and Sergey Dubinsky (right), both Russian ex-intelligence officers, were named by international investigators as two of the men responsible for shooting down MH17
Oleg Pulatov, a Russian ex-army officer, and Leonid Kharchenko, the Ukrainian commander of separatist rebels in the country’s east, have also been identified
The judges’ first order of business was to verify whether the suspects had appointed lawyers to defend them and to lay out a timetable for the case to proceed.
The aircraft’s downing led to sanctions against Russia by the European Union. It also heightened tension between Russia and Western powers who blame it for the disaster, which killed 196 Dutch, 43 Malaysian and 27 Australian nationals, among others.
All four men were fighting for Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine when MH17 was shot down, investigators say, despite Russia insisting the missile was fired by Ukrainian forces (pictured, a pro-Russia separatist near a part of the plane)
Moscow slammed the ‘absolutely groundless accusations’ last year, claiming the international community had frozen them out of investigations to discredit Russia.
Prosecutors said Girkin was a former colonel in Russia’s FSB intelligence agency who was the self-declared minister of defence in the separatist administration in eastern Ukraine.
Dubinskiy was a former minister from the Russian military intelligence agency GRU, Pulatov was an ex-soldier in Russia’s Spetznaz special forces unit and Kharchenko a Ukrainian separatist.
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