Russian officials named in discussions on downing of MH17: JIT

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MH17 wreckage - Dutch Safety Board report (Photo: NL Times/Zachary Newmark)MH17 wreckage - Dutch Safety Board report (Photo: NL Times/Zachary Newmark)

The names of senior officials in the Russian government are mentioned in telephone conversations between pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine about the downing of flight MH17, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) revealed in a call for witnesses on Thursday, NU.nl reports.

"Further investigation, including witness hearings of former DPR members, suggest that the Russian influence went beyond providing military support alone", the JIT said. "This can also be seen from recorded conversations that DPR leaders had with senior officials of the Russian government." ​DPR stands for Dontesk People's Republic, a self-proclaimed pro-Russian republic in the Ukraine.

"The JIT is looking for information about order givers in the administrative and military hierarchy, who made it possible for MH17 to be shot down in eastern Ukraine."

The relatives of the 298 people who died in the MH17 disaster were informed of this new development on Thursday.

THE MH17 CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION:

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17th, 2014. All 298 people on board, including 196 Dutch, were killed. In June 2019 the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) announced that the criminal trial against the first four suspects in this case - three Russians and one Ukrainian - will start on March 9th, 2020. The trial is expected to take over a year. 

Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy, Oleg Pulatov, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko are suspected of playing crucial roles in delivering the missile system that shot down MH17. They will be prosecuted for causing the crash and leading to the death of everyone on board. They are also facing charges of murdering 298 passengers and crew members of MH17.

Investigation by the Dutch Safety Board and JIT previously revealed that the Malaysian Airlines flight was shot down by a BUK missile system from the 53rd Anti-aircraft Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces, fired from a field in Ukraine that was under the control of pro-Russian separatists at the time.

In addition to the JIT criminal investigation, the Netherlands is also in talks with Russia about state liability. The Netherlands and Australia officially held Russia accountable for its role in the MH17 disaster - providing the BUK missile system with which the passenger plane was downed. 

According to the JIT, Russia is not cooperating with the investigation into the disaster, refusing to respond to requests for legal assistance. “We now have the information, have the proof, that the Russian Federation is involved in this tragedy, in this crime, one way or another.” Dutch Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said in the press conference in June. 

Following the announcement of the first four suspects' prosecution,  the Russian Federation denounced the  "biased, one-sided nature of the inquiry". Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security announced that the Netherlands took "diplomatic steps" against Russia, in an attempt to force the country to cooperate with the JIT.

 

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