Dutch prosecutor accuses Russia of sabotaging MH17 probe
Dutch prosecutors accused Russia of trying to sabotage the investigation into crash, overshadowing the trial.
“The sum of all the facts casts a dark shadow over this investigation because there is strong indicative evidence that Russian government is keen to thwart the investigation,” prosecutor Thijs Berger told the preliminary hearing.
“Several witnesses in this investigation have said that they fear for their lives if their identities would come to light,” Berger said.
“The use of Russian security services to discover the identity of witnesses in the investigation is a very real scenario.”
The four suspects were not in court after unsuccessful efforts to summon them.
On Monday it took prosecutor Dedy Woei-a-Tsoi 18 minutes to read the names of the 298 victims who died when the Boeing 777 was shot down over eastern Ukraine.
Most of the passengers onboard the flight were Dutch but the citizens of 10 countries were among the dead.
Prosecutors said the firing of a Buk missile from a field was illegal and those involved had refused to accept accountability.
Investigators say there is proof the missile came from a Russian military base.
Prosecutors say the men are jointly accountable for the attack because they “co-operated to obtain and deploy” the Buk missile launcher in order to shoot down an aircraft.
Defence lawyer Sabine ten Doesschate said her Russian client, Oleg Pulatov, denied the charges and had no involvement with the incident.
Neither Ukraine or Russia extradites its citizens but the court says it is prepared to accept testimony via a video link.
The defendants, Russians Sergey Dubinsky, Pulatov and Igor Girkin and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, were allegedly commanders in Russian-backed militias in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
Russia has repeatedly denied involvement in the July 17, 2014, incident.
The countries participating in the case, Ukraine, the Netherlands, Australia, Malaysia and Belgium, agreed in 2017 to hold the trials in the Netherlands under Dutch law after moves to establish a UN-backed tribunal met Russian opposition.
Piet Ploeg, who lost his brother, Alex, his sister-in-law and his nephew, on the flight, was in court.
“Next of kin want justice,” he said. “We want justice for the fact that 298 people are murdered, and this court and the hearings will start today will give us more clarity about what happened, why it happened and who was responsible for it.”
Picture credit: PXHere