None of the defendants appeared for the trial. Those convicted were Igor Girkin, a former colonel in Russia’s security service, the FSB, who later served as defense minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic; Sergei Dubinsky, a former officer of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence service, and Leonid Karchenko, the Ukrainian commander of separatist forces in the Donbass.
They were sentenced to prison, although they were never caught.
A fourth defendant, Oleg Pulatov, who served in the GRU’s special unit, was acquitted for lack of evidence. Bulatov was the only defendant who sent lawyers to defend himself at the trial, and he had previously asked the court to acquit him, saying he had no role in the incident.
The verdict draws a line under a years-long investigation into who fired a surface-to-air missile that hit a Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014, leaving bodies and debris strewn across fields in eastern Ukraine.
The incident occurred during fighting between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces in the area where several Ukrainian military jets were shot down in the weeks before Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down.
Russia has long maintained that it is not a party to the conflict that erupted in Donbas in 2014, and that it does not control pro-Russian militias in Donetsk, where four defendants held high positions as part of separatist militias.
However, the court determined that Moscow funded and armed separatist forces in the Donetsk People’s Republic and generally controlled the breakaway region and its authorities.
The court found that the puck launch was deliberate but that the defendants thought they were firing at a military aircraft.
“Judgment cannot bring back the dead,” said presiding judge Hendrik Steenhuis. “But clarity is provided as to who is to blame.”
The Kremlin has always vehemently denied any involvement in the downing of Flight 17 and sought to discredit the investigation into the incident as politically biased. It promoted various explanations for how the plane was shot down, from blaming the Ukrainian government to dismissing the evidence in the case as fabricated.
Dutch investigators went to great lengths to debunk those claims, issuing a detailed report Chronology Of striking, revealing character The defendants played a role in delivering the missile system to the missile site at Bervomaisky and shooting down the plane.
Several family members of the Flight 17 victims have suggested that if the international community had pushed back harder against Moscow in the years since the plane was shot down, Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine could have been avoided this year.
“Despite evidence to the contrary, the West has been happy to accept the idea that separatist groups in Ukraine are not representative of the Russian Federation, so they can turn a blind eye to Russian aggression,” said Eliot Higgins, founder of the intelligence. Bellingcat, a team that used open-source intelligence to link the Buk missile system to Russia’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Squadron, shared its findings with Dutch investigators.
“This led to a frozen conflict in eastern Ukraine, which gave Russia time to prepare for a full military invasion of Ukraine, leading to international implications for energy and food supplies,” Higgins added. “If the West had stood up to Russian aggression in 2014, we might have avoided the situation we are in today.”
Two days before the Flight 17 verdict, the nearly nine-month war in Ukraine saw one of its tensest moments when a missile landed in Poland, killing two people. Officials in Washington and Warsaw have said it may have been a Ukrainian air defense missile that landed on the Polish-Ukrainian border.
The U.S. National Security Council said in a statement that regardless of the final results of the investigation into the incident, Russia was “ultimately responsible for this tragedy” when it launched the war.
The Russian Embassy in Australia responded by tweeting the report as “Everything you need to know about the MH17 investigation and investigation”.
Kirkin, who served as commander of Kremlin-backed separatist forces in Donetsk, once boasted that he had “pulled the trigger on the war” in Ukraine. For years he lived safely in Russia, but recently moved out of Moscow and returned to the front line in Ukraine last month.
Khirkin is believed to be the most senior military officer in direct contact with Moscow at the time the plane was shot down and is said to have helped transport the Pak missile system. He had previously said he felt “a moral responsibility” for the mass death of passengers, but denied directly contributing.
In mid-October, Kirkin wrote on his popular Telegram blog that he had rejoined the “active military.” Kirkin often uses the blog as a platform to sharply criticize Russia’s military strategy in Ukraine. His wife, Miroslava Reginska, shared a photo of Kirkin, who is wearing a military uniform and also goes by the name Igor Strelkov.
Following reports that Kirkin had returned to the front lines, the Ukrainians launched a crowdfunding campaign to collect a $100,000 reward for his capture.
If Ukrainian forces capture Kirkin, the Netherlands will extradite him in hopes of bringing justice to the hundreds of family members who lost loved ones on Flight 17.