This week, Court in the Hague began hearings on the Boing 777 case of Flight MH17 for Malaysian Airlines, which was shot down in 2014 over occupied Donbas. There were 283 passengers and 15 crew members on board the aircraft, two-thirds of them were nationals of the Netherlands. All died.
The preliminary stage of the hearings has begun: the Dutch public prosecutor accuses three Russians and one citizen of Ukraine in the murder of 283 passengers. The defendants are: former leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic Igor Girkin, his deputy Sergey Dubinsky, Colonel Oleg Pulatov and the gunman Leonid Kharchenko.
It may reasonably be assumed that the defendants were aware of the court hearing, but did not appear at the trial. Thus, Pulatov, for example, was served the summons personally in hand at the Ulyanovsk court of Russia. The rest were looked for through social networks. The Dubinsky was sent summons via Whatsapp, Skype and Facebook. And the messages were read by him. Kharchenko received the message in Vkontakte (Russia's most popular social network, - ed.) and even opened the link, but later his page was deleted. The situation with Girkin turned out to be a little more complicated: he did not react to messages on social networks, but later in a comment to the Russian Interfax he stated that he was not going to appear at the court and did not recognize its jurisdiction at all. Thus, he confirmed that he knew about the hearing.
Relatives of those deceased arrived at the trial; they waited five years for this trial.
"It is very important for us that an independent Dutch court is considering all the evidence and comes to its own decision, generates the verdict. We do not know when this will happen, and also do not know when this verdict can happen. Therefore, we must wait. But the trial is very important for all of us. We want justice, we want to know all the details about the downing of MH17. This is the first, but a big step," one of the relatives of the victims who lost his brother, daughter-in-law and a nephew in a disaster told the BBC reporters.
The head of the MH17 Disaster Foundation believes that the hearing may be protracted for another 4 - 7 years. The process itself, he said, may take 4 - 5 years, followed by a verdict, then an appeal and, possibly, the European Court of Human Rights, which generally means about seven years of hearings.
On the first day of the hearing, the names of all the victims were announced in the courtroom. The gratitude was expressed to the journalists and activists who helped to gather evidence.
Prosecutors noted that the issue of whether Ukraine should have closed its airspace was not taken into account, since the Russian Buk, in principle, should not have been on the territory of Ukraine.
"Whatever the answer to this question, this is no excuse for those responsible for launching a rocket on a civilian plane," the prosecutors said.
So far, investigators and prosecutors are in no hurry to publish the materials. However, one of the prosecutors said they have at least one witness of the rocket launch who is ready to testify in court.
By the end of the hearing, the court shall provide a potential opportunity to prosecute the top leadership of Russia in the International Criminal Court of The Hague, including for crimes in the Donbas.
For Ukraine, this court will also provide the necessary evidence for the trial in the UN International Court of Justice, where Ukraine is trying to prove Russia's involvement in financing terrorism in Donbas.
And finally, the court will strengthen international sanctions against Russia.