The Slatest

Four Linked to Russia-Backed Ukrainian Separatists Charged With Murder for Shooting Down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

Dutch Police Head of Central Crime Investigation Department Wilbert Paulissen delivers a speech during a press conference of the Joint Investigation Team on June 19, 2019 in Nieuwegein, on the ongoing investigation of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash in 2014.
Dutch investigators lay out evidence against four suspects.
John Thys/Getty Images

Dutch investigators named four suspects in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 while flying over Ukraine in 2014, killing 298 passengers and crew aboard. The flight was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and had 196 Dutch citizens onboard. The four men—three Russians and one Ukrainian, all linked to the Russian-backed separatist movement in Eastern Ukraine—are expected to face murder charges. Investigators said there is sufficient evidence for criminal charges and a trial is expected to take place in the Netherlands in March.

“Igor Girkin, a former colonel of Russia’s FSB spy service; Sergey Dubinskiy, employed by Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency; and Oleg Pulatov, a former soldier with the GRU’s special forces spetsnaz unit. All were Russian soldiers previously sent abroad,” the Guardian reports. “A fourth suspect, Leonid Kharchenko, is a Ukrainian. He led a military combat unit in the city of Donetsk as a commander, it was alleged.” The four suspects, the investigation found, were responsible for linking Russia to the separatists, the Moscow-backed Donetsk People’s Republic, arming them with weapons to carry out attacks, including the Buk launcher used to attack flight MH17.

“Their acts on and around July 2014 have led to the shooting of Flight MH17. Even though they have not pushed the button themselves, there is suspicion that they have closely cooperated,” Dutch chief prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said Wednesday. “The possibility exists the suspects wanted to shoot a military airplane instead of a passenger flight. Even if that was the original plan, we still hold them responsible for the downing MH17.”

The Dutch-led investigation was conducted by more than 50 detectives who collected witness testimony and analyzed satellite and cellphone data to arrive at their conclusion, but did not have access to the crime scene in Eastern Ukraine. Dutch prosecutors are expected to ask Russia to hand over the suspects for trial, though Moscow has denied responsibility for backing the separatists in Ukraine and is unlikely to comply.