Investigators probing the downing of the Malaysian Airlines MH17 aircraft in Ukraine in 2014 on Wednesday identified four suspects, The Guardian reported. The crash had killed all 298 people on board.
The suspects were identified as Igor Girkin, a former colonel of Russia’s FSB spy service; Sergey Dubinksy, employed by Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency; Oleg Pulatov, a former soldier with the GRU’s special forces spetsnaz unit, and Leonid Kharchenko, a Ukranian.
Girkin was minister of defence in the Donetsk People’s Republic, aided by Russia but not recognised by most countries, the daily reported. Dubinsky served as Girkin’s deputy in the Donetsk People’s Republic, Pulatov was Dubinsky’s deputy, and Kharchenko worked under the trio, investigators said.
Prosecutors said there was enough evidence to bring criminal charges against the accused. The suspects will face murder charges. Chief Dutch prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said international warrants have been sent out for the accused.
The Joint Investigation Team made the announcements at a press conference in the Netherlands. The team comprises detectives from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine. Westerbeke said the investigation was conducted by interviewing witnesses, viewing satellite data, and analysing phone calls. Over 50 detectives were involved in the inquiry, he said, but added that the area of the crash in Ukraine is still unavailable to the investigators.
Investigators said the soldiers “formed a chain linking DNR with the Russian Federation”, and thus obtained the heavy armaments, including a missile launcher used to take down the aircraft. The accused did not carry out the attack themselves, but were responsible for bringing the anti-aircraft equipment to Ukraine, the investigators alleged.
Moscow condemned the “unfounded accusations” by international investigators. “Once again, absolutely unfounded accusations are being made against the Russian side, aimed at discrediting Russia in the eyes of the international community,” AFP quoted the Russian foreign ministry as saying.
Kremlin added that the country had been ready to provide complete assistance from the beginning, but claimed to have been kept out of the investigation. “You know our attitude towards this investigation,” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said. “Russia had no opportunity to take part in it even though it showed initiative from... the very first days of this tragedy.”
Meanwhile, investigative website Bellingcat on Wednesday published new details of 12 individuals allegedly involved in shooting down the jet. They comprise military commanders, some linked to Russian spy agency the GRU, and Ukrainian separatist fighters. The website alleged that there was close collaboration between the GRU and the military intelligence wing of the Donetsk People’s Republic in the conspiracy.
Dutch prosecutors investigating the incident had said in 2016 that the Buk missile used to shoot down the jet originated from Russia. According to the findings, the missile was fired from eastern Ukraine that was controlled by pro-Russian separatists fighting Ukrainian forces since April 2014. They said the vehicle used to launch the missile returned to Russia after firing it. However, Russia has denied any involvement in the crime.