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Three people, including Girkin, were found guilty over the MH17 airplane downing 

Eight years after the tragedy, the District Court of The Hague has made a verdict. Three individuals associated with Russia were found guilty and sentenced to lifetime imprisonment, one was acquitted.

The crash site of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 near the Hrabove village in the Donetsk region.
Dominique Faget / AFP / Getty

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over the East of Ukraine on July 17, 2014. All 298 people on board, 283 passengers and 15 crew members, were killed, including 80 children. 

An airplane was hit from a Russian Buk anti-aircraft missile system. The court established that Russia had had overall control over the temporarily occupied parts of the Donetsk region, from where the missile was launched, since mid-May 2014. 

Check out the timeline of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine since 2014.

After over two years of trial, the court found Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky, and Leonid Kharchenko guilty of shooting down the plane and murdering 298 people. The actions to bring down the plane were deliberate, even though they intended to hit the military aircraft. 

MH17 crash site
Photo: Thomson / REUTERS

Three men were sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia: they did not appear before the court nor had legal representation. Among the convicted is Igor Girkin (Strelkov) – a “former” FSB officer, who participated in the occupation of Crimea and led operations on the occupation of parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Russian Oleg Pulatov was the only one acquitted.

Read more: The invisible war: 8 years of battles in Donbas

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine stated that the verdicts of the Court are remarkable in the context of the establishment of justice and the inevitability of punishment for the commission of crimes. At the same time, Russia as a state must also be held accountable. 

“The transfer of Buk-TELAR to terrorists is an obvious breach of international law, specifically, of the International Convention on Suppression of Financing of Terrorism. Such transfer of this deadly weapon to Ukraine is a key element of Ukraine’s case versus Russia in the International Court of Justice” the statement says.