Moscow refuses hearing of key witness at MH17 trial

Russia rejected, on December 3, a request for mutual legal assistance in the context of the trial on MH17, the judges announced during a hearing organized before the Dutch court in charge of this case opened since March 2020. Since then several months, the Dutch judge, who is investigating the case of the Malaysia Arlines flight shot down over eastern Ukraine in 2014, resulting in the death of 298 passengers and crew, including 196 Dutch, claimed the hearing of Sergei Mutskayev, the commander of the 53e antiaircraft brigade based in Kursk, Russia. The latter is considered to be a key witness: it is from this brigade that the missile causing the firing on the plane would have issued.

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But Moscow felt that such an interrogation could harm the country’s vital interests. The questions “Relate to military matters, which are subject to confidentiality, in accordance with Russian law”, said the Dutch court of Schiphol, reading the response of the Russian authorities. The hearing of the officer, said the latter, could “Undermine the state secrets of the Russian Federation and therefore, the essential interests” from the country.

In 2018, investigators concluded that it was a BUK anti-aircraft missile that was fired on flight MH17. According to the prosecutor, the missile had been transported a few days earlier from Russia and fired from a field near the village of Pervomysk in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, which has been plagued by deadly clashes between pro-Russian separatists, backed by Moscow, and the Kiev armed forces.

301 claims

Since the opening of the trial, the four main suspects are on trial in absentia in the Nederlands. The prosecution accuses three former Russian military intelligence officers (GRU), Oleg Poulatov, Igor Guirkine and Sergei Dubinsky, as well as the pro-Russian Ukrainian, Leonid Khartchenko. The latter three have been tried in absentia since March 9, 2020. Also absent, Oleg Poulatov is nevertheless represented by lawyers.

While awaiting a response from Moscow to Sergei Mutskayev’s interrogation request, the Dutch police launched an appeal to Russian officers at the beginning of September, “Who have more information, such as photos, videos, email and official documents ». The appeal was also addressed to the inhabitants of Kursk. In vain.

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In the absence of cooperation, the investigating judge therefore decided on Wednesday to close his investigation. From December 20, the public prosecutor should make its conclusions, make the link between the evidence collected and those responsible for the tragedy, before requesting the penalties.

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Moscow refuses hearing of key witness at MH17 trial