MH17 trial: court concludes plane was shot down by Russian Buk missile

Photo: Molly Quell
The reconstruction of the plane by the investigation team. Photo: Molly Quell

Judges trying four men accused of shooting down a passenger airliner over the skies of Ukraine in 2014 have concluded that it was brought down by a Buk missile fired from Russian-controlled territory.

The finding was announced as the Dutch court prepared to deliver its verdicts in the case, which has lasted 69 days spread over more than two years. Prosecutors have demanded life sentences for all four men.

None of the suspects – three Russians and one Ukrainian – were present in the high-security courtroom near Schiphol airport to hear the verdicts. Only one, Russian national Oleg Pulatov, instructed defence lawyers, who argued he should be acquitted because he had not received a fair trial.

Four side rooms were set up for relatives of those who died and interested parties who wanted to attend the hearing, but none of them chose to speak during the hearing. The passengers and crew came from 17 different countries and included 196 Dutch nationals.

At the start of the final session the court said it accepted the conclusions of an international team in 2018 that the Boeing 777 was shot down on July 17, 2014, by a surface-to-air missile originating with a Russian military unit.

Presiding judge Hendrik Steenhuis said: ‘The court is of the opinion that MH17 was struck by a Buk rocket fired from an agricultural field near Pervomaiskyi, as a result of which all 283 passengers and 15 crew died.’

The official investigation concluded in 2016 that the plane was shot down from Ukrainian farmland by a BUK missile ‘controlled by pro-Russian fighters’. That conclusion has been disputed by Russia, which claims that Ukrainian fighters were responsible.

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