Russia has called a Dutch court’s award of life sentences to three men linked to Moscow as “politically motivated” and based on “questionable information and materials” while accusing it of ignoring evidence provided by the defence.
The Kremlin’s reaction came a day after the district court of The Hague convicted two Russians Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinsky and Ukrainian national Leonid Kharchenko in the 2014 case of the downing of a passenger aircraft in eastern Ukraine that killed all 298 people on board Malaysia Airlines MH17.
A fourth defendant, Russian citizen Oleg Pulatov, was declared not guilty by the court.
In a fiery response, Russia said that the court was given the role of “an extra with the assignment to tailor the respective probative evidence to fit a guilty verdict”.
“Both the proceedings and the outcome of the trial prove that the process was based on a political order to prop up the version of Russia’s responsibility for the tragedy,” Moscow said, adding that the court was under “unprecedented pressure” from Dutch politicians, the prosecutor’s office and the media who tried to impose a “politically motivated result”.
In a statement, the Russian foreign ministry said that the court relied on the material provided by the Security Service of Ukraine, which had been “repeatedly caught giving false and contradictory information”.
“The defence’s argument that there was no compelling evidence that MH17 was shot down by a Russian missile was ignored. Only the materials that supported the Hague-promoted version were analysed, while the documents, declassified by the Russian Defence Ministry, on transferring the missile to Ukraine, whose serial number was identified on the wreckage at the crash site, were brushed aside,” the statement reads.
Stating that the court did not elaborate on the details of the missile’s launch point, the statement further said: “All the facts pointing to the possibility that the missile could have been launched by the Ukrainian army from Kyiv-controlled territory were simply dismissed.”
It said Ukraine refused to give the court both their radar information and the records of the air controllers’ conversations. “Moreover, the Ukrainian air traffic controllers who worked on that day and could shed some light on the circumstances of the tragedy, have disappeared without a trace.”
“Images from US satellites taken on the day of the crash could have provided some clarity. However, Washington resolutely refused the judges’ requests to reveal the records or at least to let them look at them under special conditions.”
According to media reports, the court ruled that the Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur plane was shot down by a Russian surface-to-air missile system over rebel-held eastern Ukraine. The majority of the passengers on board were citizens of the Netherlands.
The statement said that the court hearings have “every chance of becoming one of the most scandalous in justice history with its long list of irregularities, discrepancies and questionable arguments from prosecutors”.
“We deeply regret that the District Court of The Hague discarded the principles of impartial justice to conform to the current political agenda thus delivering a grave reputational blow to the entire court system of the Netherlands,” the Russian foreign ministry stated.