The Tragedy of MH17: Who Shot Down the Plane?

© AFP 2023 / EMMANUEL DUNANDThe wrecked cockipt of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is presented to the press during a presentation of the final report on the cause of the its crash at the Gilze Rijen airbase October 13, 2015
The wrecked cockipt of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is presented to the press during a presentation of the final report on the cause of the its crash at the Gilze Rijen airbase October 13, 2015 - Sputnik International, 1920, 16.11.2022
On November 17, judges in the Netherlands are expected to announce the verdict in the trial of the individuals accused of being involved in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over 8 years ago.
On July 17, 2014 tragedy struck when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) bound to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam crashed in Donbass. Now, years after the airliner's destruction, experts have yet to ascertain who shot down MH17.
The area where MH17 met its end became the site of an armed conflict weeks before the tragedy, after the regime in Kiev that seized power during the so-called Euromaidan coup in February attempted to bring to heel the people of Donbass, who refused to accept the coup’s result and sought to secede from Ukraine.
This complicated geopolitical situation affected the subsequent attempts to get to the bottom of this matter as the investigation into the crash quickly became an integral element of the conflict in Ukraine.

Who Are the MH17 Victims?

A total of 298 people, including passengers and 15 members the crew, was aboard the airliner when it crashed – none of them survived the disaster.
The majority of those on board, 196 people, were Dutch, with the rest of the passengers being mostly Malaysian and Australian.
Some 80 of the passengers were children.

MH17 Investigation

The investigation into the circumstances of the MH17 demise was conducted by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) consisting of the Netherlands, Malaysia, Belgium, Australia and Ukraine, which was formed in August 2014.
Even before the investigation started, Kiev was quick to blame Russia and the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) for the tragedy, alleging that the plane was attacked by DPR forces who used a surface-to-air missile provided by Moscow – allegations that Russia and DPR vehemently refuted.
Dutch experts work at Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash site - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.01.2022
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Before these claims could be confirmed or debunked, several Western powers rushed to impose economic sanctions on Russia, using the MH17 crash as a pretext.
Prior to the MH17 crash, DPR forces did manage to down several Ukrainian military aircraft, but they did so using man-portable air defense systems incapable of hitting a target at the altitude the ill-fated airliner was cruising at.
It also remains unclear why Ukrainian authorities allowed the civilian airliner to pass through airspace above the ongoing armed conflict zone.

What Happened to MH17?

The JIT finally announced in 2016 that, according to their findings, the plane was hit with a Buk 9M83 surface-to-air missile launched from a weapon system allegedly supplied by Moscow to DPR forces, with said weapon system then allegedly being smuggled back into Russia.
Russian weapon manufacturing company Almaz-Antey, who manufactures the aforementioned Buk missiles, came to different conclusions during its own investigation, having determined that the missile that downed MH17 was an older variant of Buk produced during the 1980s and likely used by the Ukrainian military.
In this March 3, 2015 file photo parts of the wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 are displayed in a hangar at Gilze-Rijen airbase, Netherlands. - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.11.2021
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The type of the missile used to shot down the Malaysia Airlines plane, Almaz-Antey argued, was no longer used by Russian armed forces who long switched to more advanced weapon systems. Such missiles, however, were still used by the military of Ukraine, a former Soviet republic that inherited a not inconsiderable number of such missiles and weapon systems from the Soviet Army when USSR broke up.
The JIT, however, appeared reluctant to take findings presented by the Russian side into account – findings that did not seem to fit into the narrative promoted by Dutch-led investigation team.

MH17 Trial

In 2017, Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders declared that the JIT members would prosecute those found guilty in the downing of Flight MH17 in the Netherlands, under the Dutch law.
In 2019, Dutch authorities charged three Russian nationals – Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov – and one Ukrainian national, Leonid Kharchenko, with the crime in question, and a year later, a trial began, with the prosecution seeking life sentences for the accused who were all being tried in absentia.
The court in the Netherlands is now expected to deliver its verdict this week, and it remains to be seen what ruling the judges are going to announce.
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