2 Russians, 1 Ukrainian convicted of murders in 2014 downing of MH17 flight over Ukraine

SCHIPHOL, Netherlands (AP) — A Dutch court on Thursday convicted two Russians and a pro-Moscow Ukrainian separatist in absentia of the murders of 298 people who died in the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine and sentenced them to life imprisonment. One Russian was acquitted because of a lack of evidence.

Presiding Judge Hendrik Steenhuis said that evidence presented by prosecutors at a trial that lasted more than two years proved that the Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was brought down by a Buk missile fired by pro-Moscow Ukrainian fighters on July 17, 2014. The crash scattered wreckage and bodies over farmland and fields of sunflowers.

Keep scrolling for photos from the scene of the 2014 crash

Against the geopolitical upheaval caused by Russia’s full-blown invasion of Ukraine, the court also held that Moscow had overall control of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine, from where it said the attack was launched.

None of the defendants appeared for the trial that began in March 2020 and if they are convicted, it’s unlikely they will serve any sentence anytime soon. Prosecutors had sought life sentences for all four. Prosecutors and the suspects have two weeks to file an appeal.

Presiding Judge Hendrik Steenhuis opened Thursday’s hearing and said “the court takes the view that the MH17 was brought down by a Buk missile” launched from an agricultural field in eastern Ukraine.

The judge said he would go on to rule on other legal issues and the guilt or innocence of the suspects later in the hearing.

Tension was high among families before the hearing.

“The truth on the table — that is the most important thing,” said Anton Kotte, who lost his son, daughter-in-law and his 6-year-old grandson when MH17 was shot down. He said the hearing was a “D-Day” for relatives. Full story: