Two Russians and a Ukrainian separatist found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison for shooting down MH17

Two Russians and a Ukrainian separatist found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison for shooting down MH17

Updated: 16 days, 9 hours, 7 minutes, 27 seconds ago

Two Russian men and a Ukrainian separatist have been convicted in absentia of murder for shooting down flight MH17 and killing all 298 people on board.

Families of the victims gasped and shed tears of relief as the Dutch judges sentenced each man to life in prison and ordered them to pay nearly $25 million in damages for their roles in destroying the passenger plane.

MH17 had left Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport headed for Kuala Lumpur with 298 people from 17 countries, including 38 Australians and 80 children on board before it was mercilessly shot down over eastern Ukraine in July 2014.

Paul Guard’s parents Roger and Jill were killed in the attack and he told Sky News Australia the trial had provided clarity on the details about the explosion.

“It was a big day for us it has been a long process obviously this trial was very important mainly for providing the facts of what happened and hopefully providing a disincentive for people who might be thinking of getting involved in these sorts of conflicts in future,” he said.

Three men have been convicted of murder in absentia and sentenced to life in prison for their role in shooting down MH17. Picture: Piroschka van de Wouw - Pool/Getty ImagesThree men have been convicted of murder in absentia and sentenced to life in prison for their role in shooting down MH17. Picture: Piroschka van de Wouw - Pool/Getty Images

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Mother of an MH17 victim Meryn O’Brien said she was “relieved” the investigation and court case had finally come to an end.

“I feel relieved, I feel like the process has come to an end and it’s been very fair and it’s been meticulous and it’s been thorough and the evidence has been weighed and I feel like for those who want to hear the truth is out there,” she said.

The judges at the District Court of The Hague stated that the evidence suggested all three men were involved in the deliberate firing of a Russian made and supplied anti-aircraft missile towards the plane.

“It is crystal clear what the consequence of the attack would be and that is downing the aircraft causing the death of all on board,” presiding judge Hendrik Steenhuis said.

Despite intending to shoot down a military plane the judges ruled that the trio had fired the weapon deliberately to bring the Boeing 777 down.

Igor Girkin, the military leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic, was found guilty of deploying the missile and seeking Russian help.

Sergei Dubinsky was convicted of ordering and overseeing the transport of the Buk missile launcher and Leonid Kharchenko was found to have overseen the Buk and acting on Dubinsky’s instruction.

A third Russian, Oleg Pulatov, was the only one of the four men accused to have legal representation and he was acquitted despite knowing about the missile.

Russia has never accepted responsibility for the explosion and will likely not surrender the convicted criminals. Picture: Rob Stothard/Getty ImagesRussia has never accepted responsibility for the explosion and will likely not surrender the convicted criminals. Picture: Rob Stothard/Getty Images

Foreign Minister Penny Wong said the verdict had delivered the victims’ families closure on the details of the attack and called on Russia to forfeit the convicted criminals.

“The delivery of these verdicts is an important step in efforts to hold those responsible to account, it delivers the answers families have sought, it delivers confirmation that the Russian Federation has responsibility,” she said on Friday.

“Separatists had direction from Russia, Russia supplied weapons, training, money and the missile which downed the plane.

“We call on Russia to surrender those convicted so they may face the court’s sentence for their heinous crime.”

MH17 had been cruising at 33,000 feet as if flew over Ukraine in the early days of Russia’s efforts to retake the eastern regions of the country.

The area was a relatively low-conflict zone but Ukraine closed the airspace below 32,000 feet but planes continued to fly across the country above the no-fly zone.

The Boeing 777 was 1,000 feet above the restricted area and lost contact with air traffic control at 13:20 GMT.

Russia has never taken responsibility for the strike and has accused Ukraine of being behind the mass murder by presenting a series of false theories suggesting its neighbour was responsible.

In some cases Russia was found to have fabricated evidence to make it look like the Ukrainians orchestrated the missile launch.

International investigators debunked the Russian theories and found the plane was destroyed in mid-air by the detonation of a Russian-made 9N314M-type warhead carried on the 9M38M1 missile launched from a Buk missile system from eastern Ukraine.

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