The trial of four men accused of murder over the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine in 2014 will be adjourned until June 8 to give defense lawyers more time to prepare, judges at the hearing in the Netherlands ruled on March 23. The MH17 criminal trial resumed at the District Court of The Hague on Monday, March 23, to prosecute four suspects over their alleged responsibility for the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. While the public and the media was not allowed to attend due to coronavirus measures, the hearing was streamed online.
On July 17, 2014, MH17 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on on July 17, 2014 when it was shot down by a missile fired by pro-Moscow separatists amid fighting in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 aboard. International arrest warrants have been issued and the four have been placed on national and international Lists of Wanted Persons.
The defendants – Russians Sergey Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov and Igor Girkin, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko – held senior posts in pro-Russian militias in eastern Ukraine in 2014, according to prosecutors. They face preliminary charges of murder and of causing an aircraft to crash. Prosecutors say the four men helped to arrange the Russian missile system used to shoot down MH17, a civilian aircraft. Most of those killed were Dutch.
Pulatov did not appear in person but sent lawyers to represent him, and they have told the court their client was not involved in the crash. The other defendants are being tried in absentia.
The court suspends the examination of the Pulatov case until June 8th, 10am, and the defence will be able to speak at that time,” presiding judge Hendrik Steenhuis said. He said that meant the cases against the other three defendants, which are being tried simultaneously, would therefore also be suspended until that time.
There were allegations of Russian news outlets spreading false news about MH17’s crash and Russian security service agents posing a grave threat to vulnerable witnesses and their families. There was also a claim that Russia possibly hacked the investigation and partially leaked case files to spread disinformation.
In order to avoid accountability, the Russian leadership is making tremendous efforts to discredit the results of the numerous investigations currently underway. Despite being the instigator of a hybrid war against Ukraine and party to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Moscow is trying to reinvent itself as an observer, or even more hypocritically, as a mediator of what it insists is an “internal conflict” in Ukraine.