2 Russians, 1 Ukrainian get life sentences for downing 2014 Malaysia Airlines flight, killing 298 aboard

A Dutch court on Thursday sentenced three men to life in prison for the murder of 298 people that were killed after a missile downed a Malaysian Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine in 2014.

The court also found that a Russian missile was responsible for the strike.

“The court is of the opinion that MH17 was brought down by the firing of a BUK missile from a farm field near Pervomaisk, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew members,” presiding judge Hendrik Steenhuis said according to Reuters.

People stand next to the wreckages of the malaysian airliner carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur after it crashed, near the town of Shaktarsk, in rebel-held east Ukraine, on July 17, 2014.
(Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP via Getty Images)


Four suspects were involved in the case though only three, two Russians and one pro-Russia Ukrainian, were sentenced for the crime Thursday.

The other suspect was acquitted due to a lack of evidence.

The three men, who were not present for the ruling, can appeal the court’s decision.

The ruling helps bring a close to an eight-year-long case that captured the world’s attention after a civilian flight traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014, was shot down while flying over eastern Ukraine.

The tragedy occurred just months after Russia invaded Ukraine, seized Crimea and left upheaval in the nation’s eastern regions.

Dutch investigators accompanied by pro-Russian armed rebels arrive near parts of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 at the crash site near the Grabove village in eastern Ukraine on November 11 2014, hoping to recover debris from the Malaysia Airlines plane which crashed in July, killing 298 people, in remote rebel-held territory east of Donetsk.
(Photo by MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images)

The three suspects reportedly fired the missile from an agricultural field in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.


Steenhuis said also that the court believed Moscow had control of the separatist region at the time of attack.

“There is plentiful evidence” to support the belief that the missile was shot from a field in rebel-held territory, Steenhuis said, squashing concerns that the evidence may not have been enough to secure a conviction.

“There is no reasonable doubt possible,” he added in dismissal of the defenses’ arguments that something might have happened to the plane.

Russians Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinskiy, and Ukrainian separatist Leonid Kharchenko apparently worked together to transfer the Buk missile from a Russian military base into Ukraine for launch.

Girkin, a 51-year-old former colonel in Russia’s Federal Security Service, served as defense minister and commander of the armed forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic during the time of the strike.

REIJEN, NETHERLANDS – MAY 26: Lawyers attend the judges’ inspection of the reconstruction of the MH17 wreckage, as part of the murder trial ahead of the beginning of a critical stage, on May 26, 2021 in Reijen, Netherlands.
(Photo by Piroschka van de Wouw – Pool/Getty Images)


Kharchenko, the Ukrainian individual convicted, served as a commander in a pro-Russia combat unit and took orders directly from the other convicted Russian, Dubinskiy, prosecutors found.

Russian Oleg Pulatov, who was acquitted and the only suspect represented by defense lawyers at the trial, insisted he was innocent.

“What matters to me is that the truth is revealed. It’s important for me that my country is not blamed for this tragedy,” he told the judges.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.