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The Hague District Court found Russians Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinsky, and a Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko guilty of shooting down the Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014, and killing all 298 people on board. The verdict was announced on Nov. 17.
The fourth suspect, a Russian citizen, Oleg Pulatov, was acquitted.
Girkin, Dubinsky, and Kharchenko were sentenced to life inprisonment and paying a 16 million euros in compensation to the relatives of the victims. The suspects were tried in absentia.
In its verdict, the court also qualified the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2014 as ‘international armed conflict’ and recognized that Russia had control over its proxies in Donetsk Oblast since mid-May 2014.
President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the verdict.
"Holding to account masterminds is crucial too, as the feeling of impunity leads to new crimes," he said.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba also welcomed the verdict, saying it was a profound joint effort by Ukraine, the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, and Malaysia.
“Today’s verdicts send a message to Russia: no amount of lies can help escape justice. All criminals up the Russian chain of command shall be held accountable,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry called the court ruling “politically motivated.”
The trial began in March 2020, with four people charged. Out of the four suspects, Girkin is the only high-profile figure – he's a former Russian militant leader who has lived a public life in Russia since 2014.
A Russian Buk missile downed the Malaysian Airlines’ MH17 flight on July 17, 2014. In July, the European Union urged Russia to accept responsibility for downing the airplane. Russia has always denied its involvement and blamed Ukraine.