Two Russians and one separatist Ukrainian were convicted of mass murder by a Dutch court for their roles in the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine.
The court sentenced Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy, and Leonid Kharchenko to life in jail after finding them guilty of shooting down the airliner and murdering everyone on board. They were ordered to compensate the victims with “more than €16 million.” The three guys are still at large, and it is unknown whether they will ever fulfill their sentences.
Oleg Pulatov, a third Russian national, was acquitted due to a lack of proof about his role in the missile launch.
Before charges of everyday atrocities in Ukraine, the missile attack was one of the most infamous war crimes in the country.
Many of the victims’ families think that the invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent political chaos could have been avoided if the international community had acted differently and taken a stronger stand against Russia eight years ago.
Hendrik Steenhuis, the presiding judge, stated that the court has decided that MH17 was shot down by a Russian-made BUK missile launched from an agricultural field in eastern Ukraine, citing significant evidence that leaves “any possibility for reasonable doubt whatsoever.”
“A Buk weapon system is designed to shoot down aircraft and cannot simply be used at random. Such deployment requires preparation, including determination of and transport to a launch site. Firing the missile needs to be very deliberate and carefully considered in accordance with a technical procedure and requires a highly trained crew. The likelihood of persons on board an aircraft surviving an attack by a Buk missile is nil. Anybody who deploys a specialized, costly weapon such as a Buk TELAR will be aware of this,” the court said in a statement.
The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, called the judgment a crucial moment for accountability. “”Holding to account masterminds is crucial too, as the feeling of impunity leads to new crimes. We must dispel this illusion. Punishment for all [Russia’s] atrocities then & now is inevitable.”
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said he was pleased with the court’s judgment but that additional effort was necessary.
Blinken said in a statement: “While this is a solid step towards justice, more work lies ahead to meet the UN Security Council’s demand in resolution 2166 that “those responsible … be held to account.”