MH17: Three men found guilty of murdering 298 people on board airliner

Flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board Credit: PA

Three men have been found guilty of 298 counts of murder following the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014.

Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy and Leonid Kharchenko were found to have been responsible for shooting down the Malaysian Airline flight on 17 July 2014.

A fourth man - Oleg Pulatov - was acquitted. Mr Pulatov was the only one of the four to have a legal representative in court.

The Dutch court said the three men, who have been tried in their absence, were guilty of helping supply a missile system fired by Russian separatists at flight MH17.

Everyone on board was killed, including 10 British nationals.

All three - two Russians and a Ukrainian - were all sentenced to full-life imprisonment. The court has also ruled that €60million in damages should be awarded to relatives of the victims.

Many relatives had travelled to the Netherlands to hear the verdict.

In passing sentence, judge Hendrik Steenhuis said: "In an instant without warning, the lives of those on board were cruelly ended.

"In that moment those people were robbed of their lives and futures. The accounts of relatives make it clear how the victims were in the midst of their lives. They were not over, or barely begun, and their futures could have been so much more. Those futures were cruelly snatched from them."

The judge added: "The court is aware that passing this sentence cannot take away the pain and suffering but does hope that now that today, eight years and four months later, may offer some relief."

The trial has been ongoing for two-and-a-half years in a courtroom near Schiphol airport, where the flight bound for Kuala Lumpur had taken off from.

A few hours into the flight, a missile exploded near the cockpit, causing the plane to break-up midair.

Who are the four men who have been standing trial?

  • Igor Girkin: He is a former colonel in Russia's intelligence service, the FSB. Girkin was Minister of Defence and commander of the army of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic. He had direct contact with Moscow. He said on that "the insurgents did not shoot it down".

  • Sergey Dubinskiy: Employed by Russia's military intelligence agency, the GRU, he was Girkin's second in command, say prosecutors, and again, had direct access to the Russian Federation.

  • Leonid Kharchenko: The only one of the foursome to have no military background. Also known as Krot, he received his orders directly from Dubinskiy. In July 2014, prosecutors believe the Ukranian was in charge of a combat unit in the Donetsk region.

  • Oleg Pulatov: A former special forces soldier with Russia's elite Spetznaz unit, he was deputy head of intelligence services in Donetsk. The Russian has been acquitted.

None of the men have appeared during the hearing. Only one of the defendants - Pulatov - has had legal representation in court. Girkin, Dubinskiy and Kharchenko have been standing trial "in absentia".

Pulatov has denied any responsibility and offered some evidence through a lawyer who attended court.

His defence claimed the trial was unfair and that the trial did not properly examine alternative theories about the cause of the crash or their client's involvement.

John Alder and Liam Sweeney, who were both devoted Newcastle United fans, were among those on board the doomed flight. Credit: Family

Who are the British victims?

When MH17 was shot down all 283 passengers and 15 members of the crew were killed. Among them were 10 British nationals.

  • Liam Sweeney, 28, from Newcastle, was on his way to watch his beloved Newcastle United play a pre-season tour in New Zealand

  • John Alder, 63, from Gateshead, was also travelling to see Newcastle United play

  • Richard Mayne, 20, a student at Leeds University, originally from Leicestershire

  • Glenn Thomas, 49, a media relations co-ordinator for the World Health Organisation and former Granada journalist from Blackpool,

  • Ben Pocock, a student at Loughborough University

  • Robert Ayley, 28, had moved to New Zealand and ran a dog-breeding business.

  • Andrew Hoare, 59, from Somerset

  • Stephen Anderson, 44, a former RAF search and rescue coordinator

  • John Allen, who studied and lived in the Netherlands, died with his wife Sandra and their sons Christopher, Julian and Ian

  • Cameron Dalziel, 43, a 43-year-old helicopter rescue pilot, is understood to have been living in South Africa

Some of the British victims: (Clockwise from top left) Robert Ayley, Richard Mayne, Cameron Dalziel, Ben Pocock, Glenn Thomas, John Allen. Credit: Family handouts

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “Today’s guilty verdicts, convicting three individuals of murder in relation to the downing of MH17, are an important step in securing justice for the families of the victims.

“Two hundred and ninety eight lives, including those of 10 British nationals, were tragically lost on July 17 2014. Thousands more have been devastated in the years since, as family and friends continue to grieve for their loved ones.

“The downing of MH17 was a shocking violation of international norms which keep our societies safe. It serves as a stark reminder of the human cost of Russia’s actions in Ukraine over many years.

“My thoughts remain with the families of all those killed in this heinous attack, including people from the Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia, Indonesia, Belgium, Germany, the Philippines, New Zealand and Canada.”

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