Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down in 2014 by a Russian-made missile fired from a field in eastern Ukraine, the Dutch court handling the trial of four suspects in the downing of the plane said on Thursday.
“The court is of the opinion that MH17 was brought down by the firing of a BUK missile from a farm field near Pervomaisk, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew members,” presiding Judge Hendrik Steenhuis said.
The court’s ruling convicted two Russians and a pro-Moscow Ukrainian separatist in absentia and sentenced them to life imprisonment. One Russian was acquitted because of a lack of evidence.
“The court calls the proven charges so severe that it holds that only the highest possible prison sentence would be appropriate,” Steenhuis said.
The verdict comes more than eight years after the Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was blown out of the sky over Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers and crew members. The midair explosion and crash on July 17, 2014, happened amid a conflict between pro-Russia rebels and Ukrainian forces.
Steenhuis said the court believed Russia had overall control at the time of the separatist forces in eastern Ukraine. The crash scattered wreckage and bodies over farmland and fields of sunflowers.
“From half May 2014, Russia had so-called overall control over the People’s Republic of Donetsk,” Steenhuis said, referring to the region where the passenger flight was show down.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak told Reuters the ruling sent a strong signal that “every war crime committed by the Russians will be documented, investigated, and brought to a conclusion no matter how much time it takes.”
The court is still reading its ruling in the case of four men with links to Russia accused of mass murder for their alleged roles in the downing of the flight.
Moscow has repeatedly denied responsibility for the downing of MH17. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on November 17 it would “examine” the opinion of the Dutch court.
In a briefing on Moscow, Deputy Foreign Ministry spokesman Ivan Nechaev told reporters: “We will study this decision because in all these issues, every nuance matters. After studying the legal document, we will probably then be ready to offer a comment.”
Some information for this report came from Reuters and Agence France-Presse.