On 17 July 2014, 283 passengers and 15 crew members of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 departed from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. However, the plane did not reach its destination. At 16:20 (local time), when flying over eastern Ukraine, the airliner was hit by a Buk ground-to-air missile.
It should be noted that the conflict in Donbas was gaining momentum in July, 2014. The aircraft broke into pieces in the air; the shower of burning metal and human bodies fell in Donetsk region in the vicinity of the settlements controlled by pro-Russian separatists. Some locals found the bodies in their gardens.
The Dutch Safety Board and the international Joint Investigation Team (JIT) were involved in the investigation into the tragedy; UK-based OSINT community Bellingcat made a series of conclusions, based on their examination of photos in social media and other open-source information. According to Bellingcat, the aircraft was shot down by a Buk 332 of the Russian 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade based in Kursk, which had been transported from Donetsk to the village of Snizhne. The missile was fired from the separatist-controlled village of Pervomaiskyi, they claimed.
In their previous report of September 2016, the JIT confirmed the findings of Bellingcat authors. The same conclusions were presented in the final report published in 2018. The experts studied and analyzed about 500,000 pictures and video recordings; they heard out 150,000 telephone calls; over 200 witnesses were interviewed. Following the report, the Netherlands and Australia considered Russia legally responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
Russia keeps denying the findings by the Dutch and the JIT. In this case, Moscow’s defense line has been repeatedly changed. At first, they claimed that the aiecraft had been downed by Ukrainian warplanes. Granting an interview to film director Oliver Stone, Vladimir Putin even referred to the words of a Spanish traffic controller who had allegedly seen Ukrainian strike fighters near the airliner on his screen at Boryspil Airport. The foreigner also got a pretty penny from TV station Russia Today for telling his story. Later, however, he landed up in jail for fraud.
Then there was an unsuccessful attempt to prove that Russia was no nonger in possession of missiles that had hit MH17. But in the end, the Russian Ministry of Defense opted for the version that the fatal missile had been launched from a different place, namely the village of Zaroshchenske which had not been under control of the ‘rebels’ in July, 2014.
A month ago, Bellingcat and the Joint Investigative Team published the names of those who were responsible for trasporting the Buk and had the opportunity to ‘press the button’. At the JIT press conference, the charges were brought against Russian citizens Igor Girkin-Strelkov, a former head of the pro-Russian separatists, Sergei Dubinsky, a retired intelligence officer, Oleg Pulatov (commander of the 2nd department of the DPR GRU), as well as Ukrainian citizen Leonid Kharchenko, a separatist intellingence officer. Reportedly, the suspects were in close contact with Moscow.
All four were put on international wanted list and the case will be referred to a Dutch court by the end of the year. The trial is to start in 2020. The international community has called on the Russian State to accept responsibility for what happened on that day.