A Joint Investigative Team has charged four people with murder in the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine that killed 298 people.
The team said the trial will start in March 2020 at the Hague District Court.
The team also said the four prepared the launch of the Buk missile that brought the plane down, although they may not have made the decision to actually launch the missile. The preparation justified the charges, the team said.
One of the suspects is Russian national Igor Girkin, who led the separatist forces in Donetsk in 2014. He dismissed the accusations.
The “insurgents did not shoot down the Boeing,” he told The Associated Press by telephone on Wednesday
Girkin has since been removed from his post and now lives in Moscow. The other three people charged are Sergey Dubinskiy and Oleg Pulatov. Both men have Russian citizenship, and Leonid Kharchenko, is a Ukraine national.
Alexander Borodai is a Russian national who was a rebel leader in Ukraine’s Donetsk area in 2014 when the plane was shot down. He told the AP that it is “untrue” that the separatists attacked the plane. He also lives in Moscow now.
The team asked for cooperation from the Russian government, but did not ask for the extradition of the four men. The Russian Constitution does not permit the extradition of Russian citizens.
Fred Westerbeke is a lawyer and prosecutor on the team. He said “we will ask Russia to hand the summons to the suspects.” He added that we will “ask for Russia to cooperate again with legal help.”
Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand’s son Bryce was among the 298 people who died in the crash. She is pleased that a trial will start next year, nearly five years after the plane blew up over the eastern Ukraine.
“This is what we hoped for,” she said. “This is a start of it. It is a good start.”
She added that she did not expect any of the suspects to appear for the trial, which begins on March 9.
All 298 passengers and crew on board the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were killed on July 17, 2014. Investigators found that a missile hit the Boeing 777 in flight. Bodies fell from the sky onto farms and fields of flowers.
The families of those killed were told of the trial date early Wednesday at a private meeting before a news conference by investigators.
The team is made up of detectives and prosecutors from the Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia, Belgium and Ukraine. Last year, the team said that it was sure that the Buk missile that hit flight MH17 came from the Russian army’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile brigade in the Russian city of Kursk.
Russia has always denied responsibility for shooting down the flight. Last year, Russia claimed that the Buk missile came from the Ukrainian army. The Netherlands and Australia have said they hold Moscow responsible for providing the Buk missile system used in the attack.
I’m Susan Shand.
The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter Jr. was the editor.
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Words in This Story
insurgent – n. a person who fights against an established government or authority
summons – n. an official order to appear in a court of law
detective –n. a police officer whose job is to find information about crimes that have occurred and to catch criminals