Suspects to be named in shooting down of MH17

Four suspects including a Russian officer are set to be charged over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

The Joint Investigation Team, which includes authorities from Australia, is expected to announce charges and an upcoming trial at a press conference in the Netherlands.

Investigators in Utrecht will reportedly accuse four individuals of sourcing and firing the missile that struck the passenger plane and killed all 298 people on board as it flew over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014.

Family members of the victims, who include 38 Australians, were briefed on the new information ahead of the press conference due to start at 1pm local time (9pm AEST).

“There is a court case on March 9, 2020 against four people for murder,” Silene Fredriksz, whose son and daughter-in-law were killed in the disaster, told reporters after family members were briefed ahead of the announcement.

“I am happy that the trial is finally going to start and that the names have been announced. It’s a start. I’m satisfied.”

The suspects are to be named in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in July 2014, when 298 people were killed. Picture: AFP Photo / Alexander KhudoteplySource:AFP

The plane was travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it crashed, killing all on board including 38 Australians. Picture: Rob Stothard/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

The alleged culprits will face criminal charges, as could any possible accessories.

Ms Fredriksz-Hoogzand, whose son Bryce and his girlfriend Daisy Oehlers were among the dead, said she blamed the Russian president Vladimir Putin for the appalling tragedy.

“He made this possible,” she said. “He created this situation. He is the main responsible person.”

Russia has vehemently denied all involvement in the shooting down of MH17, on Wednesday complaining of being excluded from the probe despite “proactively” trying to be involved.

Investigators last year announced the Buk missile launcher used in the attack came from the Russian 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade’s base in the city of Kursk, about a day’s drive over the border from the crash site.

They may also reveal whether the suspects intentionally shot down MH17 or accidentally pulled the trigger and subsequently tried to conceal their mistake.

The announcement five years after the tragedy will allow a case to finally be brought before the courts, most likely in the Netherlands, and provide some solace for the victims’ families.

Those killed include 38 Australian citizens and residents, 193 Dutch, 43 Malaysians, 12 Indonesians, 10 Britons and one New Zealander.

The Australian victims include Otis, Evie and Mo Scarborough Maslin, their grandfather Nick Norris, Canberra mother Liliane Derden, Arnhem Land teacher Emma Bell, and Sydney nun Philomene Tiernan.

Families of the victims, including Liliane Derden from Canberra, may finally get some solace in the form of a trial.Source:Supplied

The other passengers killed include Belgians, Germans, Filipinos and a Canadian.

Dutch and Australian officials held meetings with Russian counterparts behind closed doors earlier this year, but it is uncertain whether the suspects will be handed over to face the courts or be tried in absentia.

Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister for European Integration Olena Zerkal four people would be named as suspects, including senior Russian army officers.

“The names will be announced. Charges will be brought,” Ms Zerkal told Interfax-Ukraine news agency on Tuesday, adding that a Dutch court would then “start working to consider this case”.

She said the transfer of weapons like the BUK anti-aircraft missile system “is impossible without the (Russian) top brass’s permission”.

Dutch media have named several suspects including the head of the 53rd anti-aircraft brigade, the Russian unit identified by the probe last year.

Mr Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “You know our attitude towards this investigation. Russia had no opportunity to take part in it even though it showed initiative from … the very first days of this tragedy.”

The downing of MH17 is the worst deliberately-caused air disaster since 2996 people were killed in the September 11 attacks in New York in 2001.

It is also the second-worst deliberately-caused plane crash in history after September 11.

More to come

— With wires

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