Thursday 04 June 2020

It’s five years since the downing of MH17: What the papers say

Flowers outside the Dutch embassy in Kiev after the disaster. Photo: katatonia82

Wednesday is five years to the day when flight MH17 from Schiphol to Kuala Lumpur was downed by a Russian Buk missile over Eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

Most of those who died were Dutch, and the Dutch newspapers and television current affairs shows are all paying considerable attention to the relatives of those who died in 2014 and to those who were involved in the aftermath of the disaster.

The pending law case against four main suspects, which is due to start next year, is also given prominence. The four, three Russians and one Ukrainian, are said to have ‘‘cooperated to obtain and deploy the Buk [missile] at the firing location with the aim of shooting down an aircraft’.

The Volkskrant  spoke to the people who led the MH7 Taskforce and whose job it was to get the bodies back to the Netherlands and press for the prosecution of the people responsible.

‘Not everyone was interested in getting at the truth and achieving justice. The investigation was plagued by disinformation. Some people spread doubts and that was picked up on,’ Taskforce coordinator Michael Pistecky told the paper.

Pistecky cites American journalist Patrick Lancaster in particular who he accuses of being on the side of the ‘not rebels, not  separatists but bandits who were involved in downing MH17’. He, Pistecky says, was spreading rumours about remaining bone fragments on the crash site, implying the Dutch forensic team did not do a good job.

‘That is horrible for the relatives. As if we haven’t done our utmost to get the bodies back,’ he said.


According to civil law professor Arno Akkermans in the NRC, the upcoming case will be ‘the most important moment’ for the relatives who want to see justice done.

‘The case, where they will be allowed to speak and which will hopefully provide clarity about what exactly happened, will meet the needs of the relatives more than any other legal procedure’, the paper writes.

However, procedures for compensation have little chance of success, said Akkermans, who dismissed lawyers who talk of millions in compensation as practicing ‘fairy tale justice’ with a ‘Postcode lottery revenue model’.


The Telegraaf interviewed Piet Ploeg whose brother Alex’s remains were never identified. ‘I am convinced that the efforts of the Dutch government, the prosecution office and the  joint investigation team are painstaking and it is the details that count. But it is bizarre to discover that nothing remains of Alex,’ he told the paper.

Ploeg said the ‘lying and cheating’ by the Russians is a constant source of anger and frustration for the family and friends of the victims. ‘They keep turning the whys and wherefores over in their minds as they try to pick up their daily lives. It’s not easy.’

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