Prosecution of four suspects for downing flight MH17

The Public Prosecution Service of the Netherlands will prosecute four suspects for bringing down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on the 17th of July 2014 killing all 298 passengers and crew. This decision was made on the basis of the investigation conducted by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), consisting of law enforcement agencies from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, Ukraine and the Netherlands. The announcement was made this morning in Nieuwegein following a meeting with surviving relatives of the victims who died in the plane crash.

The Public Prosecution Service will prosecute the following people:

  • Igor Vsevolodovich GIRKIN (48)
  • Sergey Nikolayevich DUBINSKIY (56)
  • Oleg Yuldashevich PULATOV (52)
  • Leonid Volodymyrovych KHARCHENKO (47)

The Public Prosecution Service alleges the four cooperated to obtain and deploy the BUK TELAR at the firing location with the aim of shooting down an aircraft. For that reason they can also be held jointly accountable for downing flight MH17. Today the Public Prosecution Service will issue international arrest warrants and placed them on national and international Lists of Wanted Persons. This is why the full names of the suspects have been announced and their photos shown. Three of the suspects have Russian nationality, the fourth is Ukrainian. As the constitutions of both countries do not allow extradition of nationals, extradition will not be requested.

Igor Girkin, also known as Strelkov or Perviy, is a former colonel of the FSB, the Russian Federal Security Service. On the 17th of July 2014, Girkin was Minister of Defence and commander of the army of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic. Flight MH17 was shot down from this area. As the highest military officer he maintained contact with the Russian Federation.

Sergey Dubinskiy, nicknamed Khmuriy, is a former military officer of the GRU, the Russian military intelligence service. Dubinskiy was one of Girkin’s deputies in 2014 and also head of the intelligence service of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic. He also maintained regular contact with officials in Russia.

Oleg Pulatov, also known as Giurza, is a former military officer of the Russian Spetznaz-GRU, the special units of the Russian military intelligence service. In 2014, Pulatov was deputy head of the intelligence service of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and one of the deputies of Dubinskiy.

Leonid Kharchenko, also known as Krot, is the only Ukrainian suspect. He has no military background. He received his orders directly from Dubinskiy and in July 2014 he was commander of a combat unit in the Donetsk region. At that time, there was an armed conflict in that area between pro-Russian fighters and the Ukrainian armed forces.

The Dutch Public Prosecution Service will summon the four suspects, in order to account for their role in bringing down flight MH17 in court. They will be prosecuted for:

  1. causing the crash of flight MH17, resulting in the death of all persons on board, punishable pursuant to Article 168 of the Dutch Criminal Code;
  2. the murder of the 298 persons on board of flight MH17, punishable pursuant to Article 289 of the Dutch Criminal Code.

During the press conference, the Public Prosecution Service emphasised that it is only announcing the charges against the suspects; it is up to the court to pass judgment on those accusations.

The trial will start on the 9th of March 2020 at 10.00 AM before the District Court of The Hague, which will conduct the hearings at the Schiphol Judicial Complex. For the first part of the trial, the courthouse has reserved the period from the 9th until 13th of March, and also from the 23rd until 27th of March. The courthouse will advise on which of those dates -besides the 9th- the hearings will actually take place. The first part of the trial will not include the substantive details of the criminal case.

The criminal investigation of the JIT has been ongoing since 2014. On 28 September 2016, the JIT announced that flight MH17 was shot down by a missile from the 9M38 series, which was launched by a BUK TELAR system. The system was transported from the Russian Federation to an agricultural field near the town of Pervomaiskyi in Eastern Ukraine, from where the missile was launched. After firing, the system - with 1 missing missile - went back to the Russian Federation. On the 24th of May 2018, the JIT announced its conclusion the BUK TELAR used to shoot down MH17 came from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade, a unit of the Russian armed forces from Kursk in the Russian Federation.

The JIT has issued a call for witnesses aimed at other persons who played a role in the downing of flight MH17, such as members of that 53rd Brigade. The investigation is ongoing and will continue to focus on the crew of the BUK TELAR and on persons who were an important link in the decision-making in the Russian Federation on military support to Eastern Ukraine in 2014.