Flight MH17: Russia refuses to hand over convicted mass murderers

Three men convicted of murder for their role in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine remain on the run and are unlikely to ever face justice.

Two Russians and a Ukrainian separatist were sentenced to life in prison on Thursday by a Dutch court for the 2014 attack which killed all 298 passengers, including 38 Australians.

A fourth man was acquitted.

The men are fugitives and are believed to be in Russia. A Russian politician told Russia’s TASS news agency that Moscow would not be extraditing them.

The 2014 incident took place during a Moscow-backed separatist uprising which is viewed as a precursor to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.

The trial has become even more significant for victims’ families and the international community with the continuing war in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed the ruling as an “important decision”.

“But it is necessary that those who ordered it also end up in the dock because the feeling of impunity leads to new crimes,” he wrote on Twitter.

“We have to dispel this illusion. Punishment for all Russian atrocities – both then and now – will be inevitable.”

Victims take some solace in justice

Meryn O’Brien, whose son Jack was killed, said the verdict did not change anything.

“It’s a measure of justice but it would be complete justice if our family members were restored to us,” she told ABC TV.

Matthew Horder, whose parents died in the attack, noted the importance of the court determining what happened.

“To have a court at a high level confirm that … those people were deliberately murdered is very important for the families who are surviving their loved ones,” he said.

Australian relatives at the National Monument MH17 in Vijfhuizen. Source: AAP

The Dutch court’s ruling came more than eight years after the Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was blown out of the sky by a missile during a conflict between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian forces.

“Only the most severe punishment is fitting to retaliate for what the suspects have done, which has caused so much suffering to so many victims and so many surviving relatives,” Judge Hendrik Steenhuis said on Thursday, reading a summary of the ruling.

“There is no reasonable doubt” that MH17 was shot down by a Russian missile system, said Judge Steenhuis.

Albanese lauds co-operation

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese welcomed the court’s ruling, branding the shooting “an atrocious act of terrorism”.

“Our thoughts today are with the family and friends who lost loved ones in that atrocity,” Mr Albanese said.

The Prime Minister also lauded the co-operation between Australian and Dutch authorities in pursuing the matter.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong called on Russia to surrender the convicted men so they could be sentenced for their “heinous crime”.

“We would say to Russia, the world knows that you’re harbouring murderers and that says something about you, Putin,” she said.

Senator Wong said the trial “delivered justice and delivered truth” for the families of those on board and confirmed Russia’s responsibility for the attack.

Australian Federal Police representatives in the Netherlands are providing support to families following the verdict.

Russia slams verdict

Russia has branded the proceedings politically motivated.

Russia’s foreign ministry said the court had been under unprecedented pressure from Dutch politicians, prosecutors and the media to impose a politically motivated outcome.

“The trial in the Netherlands has every chance of becoming one of the most scandalous in the history of legal proceedings,” it said in a statement.

Moscow has repeatedly denied responsibility for the downing of the jet. In 2014 it also denied any presence in Ukraine.

– with AAP

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