Investigators have named four suspects they will charge with murder over the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which killed 298 people, including 38 Australians.
The Joint Investigations Team (JIT) named three Russians — Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Oleg Poelatov — as well as Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, who will be prosecuted by Dutch authorities in March next year.
The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was travelling over territory in eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russia separatists in July 2014 when it was shot down by a BUK surface-to-air missile.
Chief prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said all four suspects were responsible for bringing the BUK-M1 missile launcher into a field in Pervomaisky, eastern Ukraine, where the missile was fired from.
He said all four suspects, who are believed to be living in Russia and Ukraine, will be subject to international arrest warrants and placed on international wanted lists.
Mr Westerbeke said the three Russian suspects have military and intelligence backgrounds — Mr Girkin, 48, is a former colonel in the Federal Security Service (FSB), Mr Dubinskiy, 56, was employed by the Russian Military Intelligence Service, and 52-year-old Mr Pulatov is a former soldier with Russia’s Spetznaz special forces, also known as the GRU.
Ukrainian Mr Kharchenko, 47, has no military background, Mr Westerbeke said.
Internet sleuths release report into confirmed suspects
Internet open-source investigators Bellingcat have also released a new report, identifying more individuals it believes were involved in the crash.
The group’s investigators trawled through social media networks and utilised newly-developed facial recognition tools to identify separatist soldiers who were in the area the day the plane went down.
They also analysed the voices of recorded phone intercepts which were made public by the Joint Investigation Team in 2016.
One phone call between two military units in the area was made just a few minutes before MH17 was hit by the missile.
Bezler: Yes, Naemnik
Naemnik: A birdie is flying towards you.
Bezler: Is a birdie flying towards us?
Naemnik: Yes … one for now.
Bezler: A reconnaissance or a big one?
Naemnik: Can’t see behind the clouds … too high.
Bezler: I see … roger … report upwards.
Years of investigations bear fruit
The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was travelling between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur in July 2014, when it was shot down over territory in eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russian separatists.
All 298 people on board were killed, including 38 Australians.
An international team of investigators from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine last year concluded the Russian military played a pivotal role in providing the deadly missile to the separatists.
Russia has vehemently denied all involvement.
Last year, Moscow blamed Ukrainian forces for the incident, and said the missile was sent to Ukraine in the Soviet era and had not been returned to Russia.
Russia does not extradite its nationals for prosecution, so any suspects would have to be tried in absentia.
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