Putin played an active role in conflict around MH17 downing; No new suspects prosecuted
Last update 2:17 p.m.
Russian President Vladimir Putin played a major role in supplying weapons to eastern Ukraine, which led to the downing of flight MH17 with a BUK missile in 2014, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) concluded. The investigation into those involved in the downing of flight MH17 has been concluded. The investigation produced no new suspects for prosecution, the JIT said at a press conference on Wednesday.
The civilian aircraft flew over the conflict zone where pro-Russian separatists fought with the Ukrainian army when it was shot down. “There are strong indications that in Russia, the president made the decision to provide the BUK-TELAR to the separatists,” the JIT revealed in a press conference on the current state o the investigation into the downing of MH17 on Wednesday.
There is concrete information that the separatists’ request for the BUK-TELAR was submitted to the president and that he agreed. However, the president cannot be prosecuted, the JIT said.
The team investigated the crew of the BUK-TELAR that downed the plane. The investigation led to three officers of the 53rd brigade of the Russian army. “Their involvement in the shooting down of MH17 has not been confirmed by other sources. Therefore, the JIT is not disclosing their names. The Russian authorities are not answering questions about the crew, as they say there was no Russian BUK-TELAR present in eastern Ukraine,” the JIT said.
According to the JIT, the latest investigation revealed much about the decision-making process regarding the provision of the missile system, which was transported from Russia to the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine. However, it is not possible to find out why the missile was fired and who pressed the button. The available evidence is “not concrete enough to lead to convictions in court, according to the Public Prosecution Service. That is why no new lawsuits are being started at the moment.”
"The investigative activities have now reached their limit. All relevant and available telecom data, radar, and satellite data have now been analyzed. Many witness calls have been made, countless witnesses have been heard, hundreds of intercepted conversations have been analyzed. All the investigation that the JIT could do without the cooperation of the Russian authorities, and without endangering people, has been done," said Andy Kraag, head of the national criminal investigation department.
The European Court of Human Rights recently announced it would examine Russia's role in the downing of the flight. This followed complaints from the Netherlands and individual surviving relatives. According to the JIT, the research results presented on Wednesday can contribute to this case.
The relatives of those killed in the MH17 disaster are disappointed that the investigation has not yielded any new suspects for prosecution, said Piet Ploeg, the chair of the foundation for the relatives, Stichting Vliegramp MH17. He and other relatives were informed about the Joint Investigation Team’s findings before the press conference.
As the press conference got underway, Ploeg said that he was also told that the investigation was suspended.
On 17 July 2014, the Malaysia Airlines flight from Schiphol to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over eastern Ukraine. All 298 people on board were killed, including 196 Dutch people.
In November last year, the court in The Hague sentenced rebel leader Igor Girkin, his right-hand man Sergei Dubinsky, and garrison commander Leonid Chartshenko to life in prison for their role in the downing of flight MH17. They were the first suspects identified by the JIT. The fourth suspect, Oleg Pulatov, was acquitted. The court believes that the downing of the Malaysia Airlines passenger flight was a mistake by pro-Russian separatists. The assumption is that they did not intend to shoot down a passenger plane but mistook it for a military aircraft.
Reporting by ANP