Four charged in Netherlands over shooting down of plane over Ukraine

Three Russians and one Ukrainian have been charged with murder in the Netherlands over the downing of flight MH17 in July 2014 with the loss of 298 lives.

Dutch National Police chief Wilbert Paulissen identified Russians Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov, along with Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, as suspects in the downing of the plane in Ukrainian air space, and announced that their trial would start in March 2020.

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Russian nationals Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy and Oleg Pulatov, as well as Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, accused of downing of flight MH17, are shown on screen as international investigators present their latest findings in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, nearly five years after the crash that killed 298 passengers and crew, in Nieuwegein, Netherlands, June 19, 2019. REUTERS/Eva Plevier
A picture of Russian national Oleg Pulatov is shown on screen as international investigators present their latest findings in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, nearly five years after the crash that killed 298 passengers and crew, in Nieuwegein, Netherlands, June 19, 2019. REUTERS/Eva Plevier
Russian nationals Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy and Oleg Pulatov, as well as Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, accused of downing of flight MH17, are shown on screen as international investigators present their latest findings in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, nearly five years after the crash that killed 298 passengers and crew, in Nieuwegein, Netherlands, June 19, 2019. REUTERS/Eva Plevier
Wilbert Paulissen, one of the international investigators, presents latest findings in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, nearly five years after the crash that killed 298 passengers and crew, in Nieuwegein, Netherlands, June 19, 2019. REUTERS/Eva Plevier
Wilbert Paulissen, one of the international investigators, presents latest findings in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, nearly five years after the crash that killed 298 passengers and crew, in Nieuwegein, Netherlands, June 19, 2019. REUTERS/Eva Plevier
A damaged missile is displayed during a news conference by members of the Joint Investigation Team, comprising the authorities from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine who present interim results in the ongoing investigation of the 2014 MH17 crash that killed 298 people over eastern Ukraine, in Bunnik, Netherlands, May 24, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
A Malaysian air crash investigator inspects the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo) in Donetsk region, Ukraine, July 22, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev/File Photo TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A pro-Russian separatist stands at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo) in Donetsk region, Ukraine, July 18, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev/File Photo
An armed pro-Russian separatist stands on part of the wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane after it crashed near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014. The Dutch are due to announce on Wednesday 28 September the long-awaited results of an investigation with Australia, Malaysia, Belgium and Ukraine into the July 17, 2014 downing of the flight. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev/File Photo FROM THE FILES PACKAGE - SEARCH "FILES MH17" FOR ALL 20 IMAGES
The reconstructed wreckage of the MH17 airplane is seen after the presentation of the final report into the crash of July 2014 of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine, in Gilze Rijen, the Netherlands, October 13, 2015. The Dutch are due to announce on Wednesday 28 September the long-awaited results of an investigation with Australia, Malaysia, Belgium and Ukraine into the July 17, 2014 downing of the flight. REUTERS/Michael Kooren/File Photo FROM THE FILES PACKAGE - SEARCH "FILES MH17" FOR ALL 20 IMAGES
Malaysian air crash investigators take photos of the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), Donetsk region July 22, 2014. The Dutch are due to announce on Wednesday 28 September the long-awaited results of an investigation with Australia, Malaysia, Belgium and Ukraine into the July 17, 2014 downing of the flight. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev/File Photo FROM THE FILES PACKAGE - SEARCH "FILES MH17" FOR ALL 20 IMAGES
An 'Air' magazine is pictured at the site where the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo) in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine September 9, 2014. The Dutch are due to announce on Wednesday 28 September the long-awaited results of an investigation with Australia, Malaysia, Belgium and Ukraine into the July 17, 2014 downing of the flight. REUTERS/Marko Djurica/File Photo FROM THE FILES PACKAGE - SEARCH "FILES MH17" FOR ALL 20 IMAGES
A piece of the wreckage is seen at a crash site of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Petropavlivka (Petropavlovka), Donetsk region July 24, 2014. The Dutch are due to announce on Wednesday 28 September the long-awaited results of an investigation with Australia, Malaysia, Belgium and Ukraine into the July 17, 2014 downing of the flight. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev/File Photo FROM THE FILES PACKAGE - SEARCH "FILES MH17" FOR ALL 20 IMAGES
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There are no plans to seek the extradition of the four.

All passengers and crew on board the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were killed on July 17 2014, when a missile shattered the Boeing 777 in midair sending debris and bodies raining down onto farms and fields of sunflowers.

AIR MH17 Pilots
MH17: how the plane was destroyed (PA Graphics)

One of the named murder suspects denied Ukrainian separatists shot down the plane.

Girkin told The Associated Press by phone on Wednesday that "the insurgents did not shoot it down".

An international investigation team looking into the plane crash has blamed it on a Russian missile that was shot from separatist-held territory.

MH17 crash investigation
A piece of debris from the crash (Dutch Safety Board/PA)

Girkin, a Russian national, was a military chief of the Russia-backed rebels in the area at the time and was named by the investigators as one of the key suspects.

The international team investigating the downing of the flight will not ask Russia and Ukraine to extradite the four suspects.

Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said that the team realises that the constitutions of both countries prohibit that.

MH17 crash investigation
298 people were killed in the incident (Dutch Safety Board/PA)

"In the short term we will ask Russia to hand the summons to the suspects who are in the Russian Federation," he said.

Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand, whose son Bryce was among the dead, expressed relief that five years after the plane was blown out of the sky above conflict-torn eastern Ukraine, a trial could finally start next year.

"This is what we hoped for," Ms Fredriksz-Hoogzand said.

"This is a start of it. It is a good start."

She added that she did not expect any of them to appear for the trial, due to begin on March 9.

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