On 17 November 2022 the District Court of The Hague delivered a verdict to two Russian nationals, Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinsky, and Ukrainian citizen Leonid Kharchenko, ruling that they were guilty of complicity in the crash of Malaysia Airlines MH17 in eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014. The defendants were given life sentences. A fourth defendant, Russian citizen Oleg Pulatov, was declared not guilty.
Both the proceedings and the outcome of the trial prove that the process was based on a political order to prop up the version of Russia’s responsibility for the tragedy. This version of events has been promoted by The Hague and its fellow-members in the Joint Investigation Team. Even though our country is not a party to the court case, the Dutch Prosecutor’s Office tried to present the matter otherwise while the court was given the role of an extra with the assignment to tailor the respective probative evidence to fit a guilty verdict and to ignore any facts contradicting it. As you can see, Dutch justice completed its assignment.
Throughout the entire proceedings the court had been under unprecedented pressure from Dutch politicians, the Prosecutor’s Office and the media who were all trying to impose a politically motivated result on the hearings. It is also obvious that the Netherlands could not afford any verdict other than guilty at the national level since they had launched concurrent proceedings on the MH17 case in other platforms, and a ‘not guilty’ verdict would collapse the narrative of the collective platforms, including international jurisdictions. Objectivity and impartiality under these conditions were out of the question.
When determining the verdict, the court decided to ignore the fact that the conclusions of the Dutch prosecutors were based on evidence from anonymous witnesses whose identities had been classified, as well as questionable information and materials provided by an interested party – the Security Service of Ukraine, which had been repeatedly caught giving false and contradictory information. In addition, the defence’s argument that there was no compelling evidence that MH17 was shot down by a Russian missile was ignored. Only the materials that supported the Hague-promoted version were analysed, while the documents, declassified by the Russian Defence Ministry, on transferring the missile to Ukraine, whose serial number was identified on the wreckage at the crash site, were brushed aside.
Similarly, the court did not elaborate on the details of the missile’s launch point. All the facts pointing to the possibility that the missile could have been launched by the Ukrainian army from Kiev-controlled territory were simply dismissed. The primary unprocessed data from Russian radars as well as Almaz-Antey’s reports and the results of a full-scale experiment confirming that the missile was launched from an area controlled by Kiev, were not included in the court case documents. The same goes for the testimony of a number of key defence witnesses.
Meanwhile, Ukraine refused to give the court both their radar information and the records of the air-controllers’ conversations. Moreover, the Ukrainian air traffic controllers who worked on that day and could shed some light on the circumstances of the tragedy, have disappeared without a trace. Such odd behaviour by the authorities of the country on whose territory the plane crash occurred never bothered the Dutch prosecutors.
Images from US satellites taken on the day of the crash could have provided some clarity. However, Washington resolutely refused the judges’ requests to reveal the records or at least to let them look at them under special conditions.
It is still unclear what the most ardent accusers of Russia are concealing. The fact that this has never worried the judges is cause for sincere astonishment.
Surprisingly, since the plane crash, the issue of Kiev’s responsibility for not closing its air space over a combat zone has not been properly scrutinised, even though it is known for a fact that the Ukrainian air defence systems were deployed in the area of the so-called anti-terrorist operation, including the Buk missiles which were in a state of combat readiness, their radar units activated while their crews practiced searching and tracking targets.
These court hearings in the Netherlands have every chance of becoming one of the most scandalous in justice history with its long list of irregularities, discrepancies and questionable arguments from prosecutors, which became the basis for the verdict. It is especially notable that the guilty verdict was delivered to those whose interests were not represented by defence lawyers. The court was unable to rebut Oleg Pulatov’s defence arguments and had to declare him not guilty. We deeply regret that the District Court of The Hague discarded the principles of impartial justice to conform to the current political agenda thus delivering a grave reputational blow to the entire court system of the Netherlands.