Russia accused of obstructing MH17 suspect’s extradition to Netherlands

MH17 wreckage
Investigators begin recovery of Malaysia Airlines MH17 wreckage in Ukraine, Nov. 16, 2014 (ArnoldGreidanus/Twitter)Investigators begin recovery of Malaysia Airlines MH17 wreckage in Ukraine, Nov. 16, 2014 (ArnoldGreidanus/Twitter)

Russia deliberately obstructed a request from the Netherlands for the provisional arrest and extradition of Vladimir Tsemakh - a suspect in the investigation into the downing of flight MH17, the Public Prosecution Service (OM) said in a statement on Monday. 

The OM considers Tsemakh as a suspect, but the decision on whether or not to prosecute him has not yet been made. The man was arrested in Ukraine earlier this year for other offenses, and during his detainment, the Joint Investigation Team questioned him multiple times on his possible involvement in the downing of MH17 above eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014. 

On September 7th, Tsemakh was put on a plane to Russia as part of a prisoner exchange between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. "To prevent that Tsemakh would evade the investigation, the OM immediately requested his arrest for the purpose of extradition ot the Netherlands. The Russian Federation does not extradite its own citizens, but since Mr. Tsemakh is a Ukrainian citizen, there were no impediments for his extradition", the Prosecutor said.

Before the plane carrying Tsemakh landed in Moscow on September 7th, the OM got confirmation that Russia had received the request that he be arrested. When this did not occur immediately upon his arrival, the OM contacted the Russian authorities multiple times to find out why not. On September 23rd, the Russian authorities replied that they were considering the request, but required more information, according to the Prosecutor. They later again asked for more information, all of which was provided to them, the Prosecutor said.

"According to the OM, this information had no relevance to the decision to arrest Mr Tsemakh", the Prosecutor said. On October 19th, Russia informed the OM that they could not arrest Tsemakh because the Russian Federation did not know where he is. Media reports say that he had returned to his residence in Eastern Ukraine, from where he cannot be extradited, the Prosecutor said.

"The Public Prosecution Service concluded that Russia willingly allowed Mr Tsemakh to leave the Russian Federation and refused to execute the Dutch request. While under the European Convention on Extradition, it was obliged to do so", the Prosecutor said. The OM informed the Russian authorities of these conclusions, as well as the relatives of the 298 people killed in the MH17 disaster. 

The situation around Tsemakh will have no effect on the start of the criminal trial against the first four suspects in the MH17 case, which will start as planned at 10:00 a.m. on March 9th next year, the Prosecutor said.