A Dutch court has convicted two Russians and one Ukrainian separatist of murder for their roles in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 people onboard.
Russian nationals Igor Girkin, a former colonel of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), and Sergey Dubinskiy, who was employed by Russia’s military intelligence agency GRU, were convicted along with Ukrainian separatist Leonid Kharchenko, who had no military background but is believed to have led a combat unit in Donetsk in July 2014.
A fourth suspect, Russian national Oleg Pulatov, a former soldier of the Russian special forces Spetsnaz-GRU, was acquitted.
The plane was flying over a region at the epicenter of fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces — the precursor to the current war.
The men refused to attend the trial and were tried in absentia at Schiphol Judicial Complex in Badhoevedorp, the Netherlands.
Hendrik Steenhuis, the presiding judge, cited the wealth of evidence for the court’s decision and ruled out any alternative explanations for the incident.
The court found that a Russian Buk missile was used to bring down the plane and that Moscow was in control of the separatists at the time of the attack.
The court found that the missile launch was carried out deliberately, citing the fact that firing a Buk missile involves a complex process, but believed that the operators likely thought they were targeting a military aircraft rather than a passenger jet.
Steenhuis said those operating the Buk system would have been aware of the destructive power of the missile and the consequences of the attack would have been “crystal clear,” namely the downing of any aircraft and the death of all of those on board.
The evidence reviewed by the court included including fragments of a Buk missile found embedded in the aircraft and the bodies of some of the victims, along with videos and images showing a Buk system being moved into eastern Ukraine from Russia and then back into Russian territory following the downing of the plane.