Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Ukraine war latest: Russian-controlled proxies downed MH17, says Dutch court

by Thaisa SemenovaNovember 17, 2022 11:37 pm
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Ukraine war latest: Russian-controlled proxies downed MH17, says Dutch courtThe judges give a verdict in the MH17 case in the court room at the Schiphol Judicial Complex on Nov. 17, in Badhoevedorp, Netherlands. (via Getty Images)

Key developments on Nov. 17:

  • ‘Horrific’ scale of torture in recently liberated Kherson, says ombudsman
  • Ukraine grain deal extended for another 4 months
  • Russia’s attack on Dnipro, injures 23 people
  • Biden disputes Zelensky’s comments that missiles hitting Poland weren’t Ukrainian.

The Hague District Court qualified the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2014 as an “international armed conflict” and recognized that Russia had control over proxies in Donetsk Oblast since mid-May 2014.  

The court also found Russians Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko guilty of shooting down the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 people on board. 

All three were part of the Russian-controlled proxy group and used a Buk surface-to-air missile system provided by Russia to down the plane.

The fourth suspect, a Russian citizen Oleg Pulatov, was acquitted. 

Girkin, Dubinsky, and Kharchenko were sentenced to life imprisonment and ordered to pay 16 million euros in compensation to the relatives of the victims. The suspects were tried in absentia.

President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the verdict.

“Holding to account perpetrators 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.”

In July, the European Union urged Russia to accept responsibility for downing the airplane. Russia has always denied its involvement and blamed Ukraine.

Poland missile investigation

President Volodymyr Zelensky called for Ukrainian specialists to join an international investigation into the missile strike that killed two people in Poland on Nov. 15, stressing he has “no doubt” that the missile wasn’t a Ukrainian air defense rocket, as NATO said. 

Commenting on Ukraine’s account of the incident, U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters on Nov. 17, “that’s not the evidence.”

The White House earlier emphasized that Russia bears the ultimate responsibility for the “tragic incident” regardless of whose missile fell on eastern Poland. 

“Ukraine had — and has — every right to defend itself,” the White House said in a statement. 

During a massive nationwide Russian attack against Ukraine on Nov. 15, a blast killed two people in the Polish village of Przewodow, about six kilometers west of the Ukrainian border.

The next day, President Volodymyr Zelensky denied claims by NATO and Poland that a Ukrainian missile had likely landed on Polish territory.

National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov said that Ukraine is “ready to hand over evidence of the Russian trace” in the accident.

At the same time, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the investigation into the blast is ongoing, but there was “no indication that Russia is preparing offensive military actions against NATO.”

On Nov. 17, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and his Polish counterpart Zbigniew Rau discussed a joint investigation of the site where a missile killed two people amid Russia’s massive attack on Ukraine.

“Ukraine and Poland will cooperate constructively and openly on the incident caused by Russian missile terror against Ukraine. Our experts are already in Poland,” Kuleba said. “We expect them to swiftly get access to the site in cooperation with Polish law enforcement.”

Grain deal

Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said that the Black Sea Grain Initiative, known as the Ukraine grain deal, was extended for four months. According to the official, an agreement on the extension had been reached in Istanbul.

In July, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, and the UN struck a deal to lift Russia’s sea blockade and unblock grain exports via three Ukrainian ports.

On Oct. 29, Russia said it was suspending its participation in the grain deal due to a drone attack on Russian warships in the occupied port of Sevastopol. 

Russia accuses Ukraine of the attack, while Ukraine has not commented on whether it was responsible for the attack. 

However, on Nov. 2, Russia made a U-turn and said it was staying in the deal. 

The Black Sea grain deal, crucial for the continued export of much-needed Ukrainian grain by sea to Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, was set to expire on Nov. 19. 

Russia’s war against children

At least 431 children were killed, and 835 were injured as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine since Feb. 24, the Prosecutor General’s Office reported on Nov. 17. 

The numbers are not final, the prosecutors noted, as they don’t include casualties in the Russian-occupied territories and areas where hostilities are still ongoing.

Also, Russian forces have so far damaged 2,719 educational facilities, completely destroying 332 of them, the statement reads.

At the same time, the Institute for the Study of War said that Moscow is currently promoting the forced adoption of Ukrainian children. 

According to the report, Russian military bloggers started circulating videos of Ukrainian children who were illegally deported and adopted into Russian families.

The videos claim that over 150,000 children have been illegally deported from Donbas in 2022, the ISW said. 

“Forced adoption programs and the deportation of children under the guise of vacation and rehabilitation schemes likely form the backbone of a massive Russian depopulation campaign,” the ISW noted. 

“(They) may amount to a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and constitute a wider ethnic cleansing effort.” 

President Zelensky said on Nov. 15 that according to official data, Russian forces had deported almost 11,000 Ukrainian children to Russia. 

The list includes children the Ukrainian government knows about, but the figure is actually higher, he explained.

“In order to return all the deportees, we will need the power of the whole world,” Zelensky stressed. 

Attacks and casualties

In the past day, Russian forces wounded four civilians in Donetsk Oblast, according to Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.

He said three people were injured in Bakhmut and one in Pereizne, adding that the body of one more civilian killed by Russian troops during the occupation has been discovered in the village of Sosnove.

Overnight, Russian troops launched a missile attack on Zaporizhzhia Oblast, hitting a residential building and killing four people, Governor Oleksandr Starukh reported on Nov. 17. 

In Kharkiv Oblast, Russian forces launched a missile attack on the region’s Izium district on the morning of Nov. 17, hitting a critical infrastructure facility, Governor Oleh Syniehubov reported. 

Three employees of the facility were wounded, according to the official.

On Nov. 17, Russian forces attacked Dnipro, injuring 23 people, according to Tetiana Kvitnytska, deputy director of the healthcare department of the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a deputy head of the President’s Office, said Russian forces had struck two infrastructure facilities in the city. 

Four districts of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast were attacked overnight with Grad multiple rocket launchers and heavy artillery, according to Governor Valentyn Reznichenko. 

Russian forces fired 70 projectiles at Nikopol, damaging 20 high-rise buildings and houses, dozens of farm buildings, a college, cars, gas pipelines, and power lines. 

The attack has left 6,000 people without electricity and more than 40,000 families without water in the city, Reznichenko added.

Thaisa Semenova
Thaisa Semenova
National reporter

Thaisa Semenova is a national reporter at the Kyiv Independent. She worked as a staff writer for the Kyiv Post until November 2021.

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