Russian missile struck down the 2014 Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 that killed nearly 300
By Caitlin McFall
A Dutch court on Thursday sentenced three men to life in prison for the murder of 298 people that were killed after a missile downed a Malaysian Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine in 2014.
The court also found that a Russian missile was responsible for the strike.
“The court is of the opinion that MH17 was brought down by the firing of a BUK missile from a farm field near Pervomaisk, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew members,” presiding judge Hendrik Steenhuis said according to Reuters.
Only three of the four suspects—two Russians and one pro-Russian Ukrainian—were sentenced for the crime on Thursday.
Due to a lack of evidence, the other suspect was declared innocent.
The three men may appeal the court’s decision even though they were not present for it.
The decision aids in wrapping up an eight-year-long case that attracted global attention after a passenger plane from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014.
The tragedy happened only a few months after Russia invaded Ukraine, took control of Crimea, and caused unrest in the country’s eastern regions.
The three suspects reportedly fired the missile from an agricultural field in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.
Steenhuis said also that the court believed Moscow had control of the separatist region at the time of attack.
“There is plentiful evidence” to support the belief that the missile was shot from a field in rebel-held territory, Steenhuis said, squashing concerns that the evidence may not have been enough to secure a conviction.
“There is no reasonable doubt possible,” he added in dismissal of the defenses’ arguments that something might have happened to the plane.
Russians Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinskiy, and Ukrainian separatist Leonid Kharchenko apparently worked together to transfer the Buk missile from a Russian military base into Ukraine for launch.
Girkin, a 51-year-old former colonel in Russia’s Federal Security Service, served as defense minister and commander of the armed forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic during the time of the strike.
Kharchenko, the Ukrainian individual convicted, served as a commander in a pro-Russia combat unit and took orders directly from the other convicted Russian, Dubinskiy, prosecutors found.
Russian Oleg Pulatov, who was acquitted and the only suspect represented by defense lawyers at the trial, insisted he was innocent.
“What matters to me is that the truth is revealed. It’s important for me that my country is not blamed for this tragedy,” he told the judges.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.