A Dutch court said on Thursday that Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down in 2014 by a Russian-made missile fired from a field in eastern Ukraine and that Russia had overall control of separatist forces at the time.
The court found three men with links to Russia guilty of downing the flight.
The MH17 passenger flight was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 passengers and crew.
At the time, the area was the scene of fighting between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian forces, the precursor to this year’s conflict. Russia invaded Ukraine in February and claims to have annexed the Donetsk province, which is where the plane’s wreckage and victims’ remains were once scattered across cornfields.
The victims’ representatives say the ruling will be an important milestone, though the suspects, all of whom face life sentences, remain fugitives. They are all believed to be in Russia, which will not extradite them.
Moscow denies any involvement or responsibility for MH17’s downing and in 2014 it also denied any presence in Ukraine.
The judges ruled that it was a deliberate action to bring down a plane, even though the three found guilty had intended to shoot down a military, not a civilian aircraft.
One judge stated in the ruling: “The defendants constituted a close-knit criminal gang, specifically intending to down Ukrainian aircraft.”
The men – two Russians and one Ukrainian – were found guilty in absentia and the fourth pleaded not guilty via lawyers he hired to represent him. None attended the trial.
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