— With AAP.
1. Four suspects charged with murder over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in 2014.
Three Russians and a Ukrainian have been charged over the MH17 tragedy but Australian investigators say it’s just the beginning of the effort to bring those responsible to justice.
Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Peter Crozier says the probe into who was responsible for shooting down the plane and killing all 298 people on board will continue until all possible suspects have been identified.
Dutch prosecutors on Wednesday identified the suspects as Russians Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov and Ukrainian Leonie Kharachenko. They have been charged over the July 17, 2014 disaster in eastern Ukraine that left 38 Australians dead.
All four were officials in the pro-Russian Donetsk People’s Republic, which is fighting for independence from Ukraine, and were allegedly responsible for the Buk missile launcher being brought into the area from Russia.
Mr Crozier said investigators were still hunting for not only the crew of the Buk launcher that fired the missile but also the Russian government and military officials who allowed it to be sent to Ukraine.
“We will continue to investigate as new leads, as new opportunities appear we will follow those,” he told AAP.
“Australia will be involved until there are no further opportunities for us to be involved. Through the investigation and the prosecution we will stay the course.
“One of the key things for us is not to lose sight of why we are doing this and this is about those 298 people, this is about all those families that are affected by this.”
The Joint Investigation Team leading the MH17 probe said Girkin was defence minister, Dubinsky and Pulatov were intelligence heads, and Kharachenko was a field commander in the Donetsk People’s Republic.
The four have been all charged with both causing the crash and with murdering 298 people.
They will be placed on national and international wanted lists, but the Russian Constitution forbids extradition of Russian nationals for overseas trials, saying Russians can only be tried in Russia. They will be tried – likely in absentia – in The Hague, the Netherlands, on March 9, 2020.
“Even though they have not pushed the button themselves … they are just as punishable,” Netherlands Chief Constable Wilbert Paulissen said.
Girkin, known by the nom de guerre Strelkov (“Shooter”), insisted on Wednesday that he’s innocent and said he would not testify in the Dutch-led legal proceedings against him.
“Neither I nor any other separatist is to blame,” Girkin said in comments carried by the Russian news agency Interfax.