Dutch prosecutors have accused Russia of deliberately allowing a potential suspect in the MH17 investigation to flee across the border to his native Ukraine to avoid standing trial.
Vladimir Tsemakh was transferred from Ukraine to Moscow as part of a prisoner transfer programme in September, having been arrested on terrorism charges in June. Dutch prosecutors were allowed to question him as a ‘person of interest’ before he boarded the plane.
Ukraine, like Russia, does not extradite its own citizens, but once Tsemakh was on Russian soil Dutch prosecutors asked officials to arrest him so he could be extradited to the Netherlands.
The prosecution service (OM) claims that Russia delayed the process by making repeated requests for information before informing the Dutch on November 19 that they had lost track of his whereabouts.
In a statement published on its website, it said: ‘The Public Prosecution Service received notification from the Russian authorities that the request for the arrest of Mr Tsemakh could not be executed because no information regarding the whereabouts of Mr Tsemakh in the Russian Federation was available.
‘According to media reports Mr Tsemakh had already returned to his residence in Eastern Ukraine. From there he cannot be extradited.
‘The Public Prosecution Service has concluded that Russia willingly allowed Mr Tsemakh to leave the Russian Federation and refused to execute the Dutch request. While under the European Convention on Extradition, it was obliged to do so.’
Prosecutors said that the failure to secure the extradition of Tsemakh would have no effect on the criminal trial relating to the shooting down of flight MH17, which is scheduled to begin on March 9 at the Schiphol high-security court complex. None of the four named suspects, three Russians and one Ukrainian, are expected to be present.
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