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Guilty verdict reached for three defendants in MH17 trial

written by Casey Martin | November 18, 2022

Three of the four suspects on trial for the downing of MH17 have been found guilty of the atrocity — eight years after it occurred.

The Dutch court found Russian nationals Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinskiy and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko guilty of murdering the 298 people on board flight MH17 which was shot down by a Russian surface-to-air missile while flying over eastern Ukraine in 2014.

Life sentences have been given to the three suspects, who were also ordered to pay more than €16m ($28.8m AUD) in compensation to their victim’s families.

The other suspect, Russian Oleg Pulatov, was acquitted of charges due to a lack of evidence about his role in the firing of the missile.


The defendants were tried in absentia, and only Pulatov appointed a lawyer, who pleaded not guilty on his behalf.

All four were fighters for the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, a pro-Russia separatist movement. The court found that Russia had control of the separatist movement group in eastern Ukraine at the time of the incident.

Judge Hendrik Steenhuis presided over the trial and confirmed that the weapon that shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was a Russian-made anti-air BUK missile and that the weapon was supplied by the 53rd anti-air brigade of the Russian army based in Kursk.

The court also confirmed that the air defence system fired from an agricultural field near Pervomaiskyi, a pro-Russian controlled area.

This was all previously determined by the International Criminal Investigation Team in 2018.

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, commented on the verdict.

“Holding to account masterminds is crucial too, as the feeling of impunity leads to new crimes. We must dispel this illusion. Punishment for all [Russia’s] atrocities then and now is inevitable,” Zelensky said.

The tragedy that claimed the lives of 298 people, including 38 Australians, saw some justice exacted today. While the offenders remain at large and are unlikely to serve their sentencing, the guilty verdict was welcomed by the families of the victims.

Mathew Horder, who lost his parents, Howard and Susan, in the attack, said the court provided him with the answers he was searching for.

“The actions we’ve come to learn about, the BUK missile that downed Mum and Dad’s plane, is true … those people were deliberately murdered by those three defendants,” he said.

Meryn and Jon O’Brien who lost their son Jack were also attendees for the Dutch court’s verdict, “Jack has no voice. Jack would want the truth out. So … I feel relieved.”

When commenting on their grief as a family, she said, “for all of us, it doesn’t change anything. It’s a measure of justice,” O’Brien said.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong has called for Russia to take responsibility and surrender those convicted “so they may face the court sentence for their heinous crime”.

“We would say to Russia, the world knows that you’re harbouring murderers, and that says something about you, Mr Putin,” she said.

Wong also assured the public that Australia will continue to put pressure on Russia while working with the international community to see the three convicted serve their sentence.

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