Press release Netherlands Public Prosecution Service concerning Mr Vladimir Tsemakh

Today the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has informed the Russian authorities of its findings regarding the Dutch request for the provisional arrest of a person who may have been involved in the downing of flight MH17.

As he himself has announced in the media, this concerns Mr Vladimir Tsemakh. The PPS regards him as a suspect, but a decision whether it will prosecute him has not yet been taken. For the decision to prosecute more evidence is required than for the decision to consider someone a suspect.

Tsemakh was arrested in Ukraine and detained for other criminal offences. The investigation into his role in the downing of flight MH17 is still ongoing. During Tsemakh’s detention in Kiev, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) questioned him several times about his involvement but could not prevent Mr Tsemakh from being transferred to the Russian Federation on 7 September 2019 as part of a prisoner exchange.

To prevent that Tsemakh would evade the investigation, the PPS immediately requested his arrest for the purpose of extradition to the Netherlands. The Russian Federation does not extradite its own citizens but since Mr Tsemakh is a Ukranian citizen, there were no impediments for his extradition.

Before the plane with the exchanged prisoners landed in Moscow that day, the PPS got confirmation that Russia had received the request for Mr Tsemakh’s arrest. When his immediate arrest failed to occur, the PPS contacted the Russian authorities several times and advised them of the possible flight risk of Mr Tsemakh. Since there were indications that he wanted to return to Eastern Ukraine.

On 23 September 2019 the Russian authorities informed the PPS that they were considering the request, but required additional information. In later correspondence even more information was requested, which was repeatedly provided. According to the PPS this information had no relevance to the decision to arrest Mr Tsemakh.

The request for his arrest was frequently reiterated through Dutch diplomatic and political channels and Russia was called upon to give full and prompt cooperation. The Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Blok, stressed the urgency of the request, both in writing and in a personal meeting with his Russian counterpart, Mr Lavrov. The urgent need for swift execution of the request was also emphasized at European level, both by Mr Blok and by the Dutch Prime-Minister, Mr Rutte.

On 19 November 2019 the Public Prosecution Service received notification from the Russian authorities that the request for the arrest of Mr Tsemakh could not be executed because no information regarding the whereabouts of Mr Tsemakh in the Russian Federation was available.

According to media reports Mr Tsemakh had already returned to his residence in Eastern Ukraine. From there he cannot be extradited.

The Public Prosecution Service has concluded that Russia willingly allowed Mr Tsemakh to leave the Russian Federation and refused to execute the Dutch request. While under the European Convention on Extradition, it was obliged to do so.

The PPS has shared this conclusion with the Russian authorities. The PPS has also informed the next of kin of the MH17 victims.

The events concerning Mr Tsemakh have no effect on the start of the MH17 criminal trial. This will commence on 9 March 2020 at 10:00 AM, in the court building Justitieel Complex Schiphol.

Four suspects, Igor Vsevolodovich GIRKIN, Sergey Nikolayevich DUBINSKIY, Oleg Yuldashevich PULATOV and Leonid Volodymyrovych KHARCHENKO have been summoned to appear on this day. In their case the judge will deliver a judgment on the accusations.