Wed, 15 Jul 2020

Amsterdam [Netherlands], Jun 19 (ANI): Dutch prosecutors on Wednesday said that four people are likely to be charged with murder and causing the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 five years ago, with the trial due to start next March in the Netherlands.

The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) on Wednesday told CNN that it would issue national and international arrest warrants for the four suspects, including three Russians, identified as Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy and Oleg Pulatov, along with a Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko.

According to investigators, Girkin is a former colonel of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), Dubinskiy was employed by Russia's military intelligence agency GRU and Pulatov was a former soldier of the Russian special forces, Spetsnaz-GRU.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's Kharchenko had no military background but is believed to have led a combat unit in Donetsk in July 2014.

Investigators added that they would not ask for the suspects to be extradited because the Russian and Ukrainian constitution prohibits extraditing nationals. They noted instead that they would ask Moscow to cooperate with the investigation, and both countries to question the suspects about the charges.

All four suspects are charged with "causing the crash of MH17, leading to the death of all the people on board ... and murdering 298 passengers of flight MH17," Dutch prosecutor Fred Westerbeke was quoted as saying.

Investigators said that their trial will take place on March 9, 2020, in Hague, adding that the accused will be tried in absentia if necessary.

Flight MH17 was shot down while the aircraft flew over the territory held by pro-Russian separatists. The plane was en route to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam in July 2014. All the 298 passengers, who lost their lives onboard, belonged to 17 countries.

According to Westerbeke, the suspects are not accused of firing the missile, but are "just as punishable as the person who committed the crime."He added that they are suspected of obtaining the Buk missile "with the goal to shoot a plane."According to the JIT, which is made up of five countries, including Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine, MH17 was downed by a Buk.

Last year, investigators had announced that the flight had been brought down by a missile fired from a launcher belonging to Russia's 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade.

However, Russia has repeatedly denied involvement in the incident, suggesting instead that Ukrainian forces shot down the plane. (ANI)

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