MH17 crash: murder charges against four men

Almost five years after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down arrest warrants have been issued against three Russians and a Ukrainian accused of murdering 298 people. Moscow flatly rejects the charges. The trial against the four men is slated to begin in March 2020. Commentators try to get to the bottom of Russia's involvement.

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Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Good news for Russia

In pinning the blame on four individual perpetrators the Netherlands has taken the burden off Russia, Rzeczpospolita notes:

“The case of the MH17, which was shot down over Donbass, is increasingly reminiscent of the famous Lockerbie attack in 1988, for which the UN blamed Libya. Back then 270 passengers died on their way from London to New York. It was only in 1999 that Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi handed over the culprits (Libyan secret service agents), stressing that they had not acted 'in the name of the Libyan state'. That led to the UN's painful sanctions being repealed.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Moscow must also cooperate in the investigation

Russia must be made to support the investigations, De Volksrant demands.

“Until now Russia has done nothing but obstruct the investigations. It has launched one misleading theory after the other, one often contradicting the next, just to cover up its own involvement in the catastrophe. Now that three Russians have been issued court summons, Russia is under real pressure. Will the summons be delivered? Will the suspects be interrogated? If Russia doesn't stop sabotaging things it will be time to step up diplomatic pressure. Even if the extradition of the three suspects is not requested, Russia is obliged to cooperate with the criminal investigations.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Russia doesn't care about international rules

Deutschlandfunk doubts that the four suspected criminals will be brought to book:

“Girkin and Dubinsky live undisturbed in Russia; Girkin is a keen political commentator. And that's unlikely to change. Even if they are convicted, the Kremlin is hardly going to hand them over. The same goes for the two other main suspects. If they are still alive they'll easily be able to hunker down in Russia. ... The case is just another crass example of Russia's behaviour in general: it couldn't care less about international rules and international laws - and therefore poses a constant threat to peace in Europe. Those who are calling for the sanctions to be eased need to be told this loudly and clearly.”

Echo of Moscow (RU) /

Culprits will be old by the time they go on trial

It is unlikely that the suspected mass murderers will ever face trial, Echo of Moscow believes:

“Presumably Russia will try to shift the proceedings to a Russian court on Russian territory, which the West will hardly go along with. ... But 'never say never'. Because if Russia refuses to extradite the accused it risks harsh sanctions in view of the heinous nature of the crime. ... Of course, Putin couldn't care less, but will that also be true of his successor, whoever that may be? Provided he's not a patriotic nutcase he'll have to put Russia's relations with the West back on a stable footing. ... So these accused and others may be extradited after all - but only after many years, when their names and the idea of a 'New Russia' are overshadowed by a whole different set of problems.”

Financial Times (GB) /

This time sanctions could work

Upping the economic pressure is the best way to force the Kremlin to cooperate, the Financial Times advises:

“If Moscow refuses to hand over the suspects, the international community will have few options but further tightening of sanctions. Russia's economy has withstood measures imposed since 2014. But stalling growth and falling real incomes are increasing what pollsters call a 'protest mood', even as Mr Putin holds an annual TV phone-in on Thursday. The president has blamed a hostile west for deliberately turning Russia into a 'besieged fortress'. That act has worked so far. It may not be one Mr Putin can pull off for ever.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

This is also about Putin's chief ideologue

The trail of evidence leads all the way to the Kremlin, stresses Volkskrant columnist Bert Wagendorp:

“The fate of MH17 is a symbol of the attack on truth, not just the downed jet, but also the attempt to manipulate all truths - and above all those of the Western democracies. The name of the man who ran the whole show of the attack was mentioned at the press conference: Vladislav Surkov. ... Surkov is a former deputy prime minister and currently Putin's most important adviser. ... Surkov's motto is: He who controls the truth and can manipulate it at will controls the world. ... The public prosecutor's office not only has the task of proving the four men's guilt. It must go to battle with the 'puppet master' and by extension with Vladimir Putin.”