A Dutch court has found three men guilty of murder for shooting down a passenger jet over eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing 298 people.
The court found that a Russian-made missile supplied from Russia and fired by an armed group under Russian control brought down flight MH17.
The men – two Russians and one Ukrainian – were found guilty in absentia and sentenced to life in jail. A third Russian was acquitted.
Igor Girkin, the military leader of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, was convicted of deploying the missile and seeking Russian help, Sergei Dubinsky was found to have ordered and overseen the transport of the Buk missile launcher.
Leonid Kharchenko was found to have overseen the Buk, acting on Dubinsky’s instructions, and Oleg Pulatov was the only one of the four accused to have legal representation at the trial. The judges acquitted him, although they found he knew about the missile.
The missile attack was one of the most notorious war crimes in Ukraine before allegations of atrocities there became an almost daily reality.
Many of the victims’ relatives believe if the world had reacted differently, and taken a tougher stance against Russia eight years ago, the invasion of Ukraine and the geopolitical instability that has followed could have been avoided.
The judges ruled that it was a deliberate action to bring down a plane, even though the three found guilty had intended to shoot down a military not a civilian aircraft.
On 17 July 2014, 298 people, including 80 children and 15 crew, boarded Malaysia Airlines flight 17 to Kuala Lumpur at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.
The plane was cruising at 33,000 feet over Ukraine. It was the early days of Russia’s efforts to control parts of the country. At the time this was a relatively low-level conflict zone, but fighting had recently expanded into the air. In the preceding months, a number of military planes had been shot down.
In response, Ukraine closed the airspace at lower altitudes – up to 32,000 feet. But planes were still crossing the country. The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was flying 1,000 feet above this restricted airspace. -BBC