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Investigators name 4 suspects in Malaysian airliner downing over Ukraine

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Christian Fernsby |
Fred Westerbeke
World   Dutch chief prosecutor Fred Westerbeke

A Dutch-led international team investigating the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet over Ukraine in 2014 has named three Russians and a Ukrainian as murder suspects.

Dutch chief prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said at a news conference in the Hague Wednesday the suspects' "acts led to the shooting down of Flight MH17." He added, "Even though they have not pushed the button themselves, there is suspicion that they have closely cooperated" in gaining possession of the missile launcher that shot down the jetliner.

The suspects have been identified as Russians Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy and Oleg Pulatov, and Ukrainian Leonid Karchenko.

Westerbeke said investigators will not ask Russia and Ukraine to extradite the suspects, noting both countries prohibit that. Instead, he said Russia will be asked to deliver a summons to the suspects "who are in the Russian Federation."

Russia may not cooperate, however, as it has denied any involvement in the downing of the plane and has frequently denounced the probe.

Dutch National Police Chief Wilbert Paulissen announced the suspects' trial would begin in the Hague in March 2020, although the suspects may be tried in absentia.

The aircraft, on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down by a Russian missile on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 passengers and crew members on board.

The team of investigators from the Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia, Belgium and Ukraine said last year it was convinced the Buk missile system that was used to down the jetliner came from the Russian army's 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile brigade. The Kremlin said last year the missile came from the Ukrainian military.

The downing of Flight MH17 exacerbated relations between Russia and the West that were already tense over the conflict in eastern Ukraine.


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