Updated Nov 17, 2022, 11:24am EST

3 men receive life sentences for shooting down Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine in 2014

J.D. Capelouto is a Breaking News reporter. You can reach him at jcapelouto@semafor.com. Sign up for Flagship, our daily newsletter that distills what’s happening in the world into a concise, insightful morning read.


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The News

A Dutch court on Thursday convicted three men — and acquitted one — of murder for shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 passengers and crew on board. The suspects, who are not in custody, were sentenced to life in prison.

Judges sit in the courtroom as the Dutch court announces its ruling in the MH17 trial of three Russians and a Ukrainian in the Schiphol Judicial Complex.
REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw
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Victims onboard the flight, which was going from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, were from 10 different countries, but most were Dutch.

On trial were Igor Girkin — a Russian army veteran and now a prominent Russian military blogger — and three subordinates, including one Ukrainian. One of the subordinates, Oleg Pulatov, was acquitted of the charges.

The trial in the Hague District Court began in March 2020. Prosecutors say the men worked together to get the military missile to the field where it was used to shoot down the plane over Ukraine. They sought life sentences for all four.


Judges also said Thursday that the missile that shot down the plane was Russian-made, and that Russia had control of the separatist forces at the time.

None of the men appeared for the trial and it’s unlikely the convicted men will begin serving a sentence soon, the Associated Press reported. They have two weeks to appeal. They are currently believed to be in Russia and the country does not extradite its citizens.

Only Pulatov had a lawyer representing him in the trial, according to the AP. He argued prosecutors had “tunnel vision” in ignoring other possible causes for the crash and basing their case on an international investigation.

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The View From Russia

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied any involvement in the MH17 incident, or that it controlled separatist forces fighting in Ukraine.

Deputy Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ivan Nechaev said Thursday that Moscow would “study” the court’s finding that the missile that shot down the plane was Russian-made, saying “every nuance matters,” Reuters reported.

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The Atlantic took a look at the trial through the lens of the family of victim Jack O’Brien, a 25-year-old Australian. O’Brien’s parents said he was killed “in Russia’s war on Ukraine, in the early days of that war.”