Russia let a suspect in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 return to Ukraine, Dutch prosecutors have said on 2 December.

Vladimir Tsemakh, an alleged air defence specialist for pro-Moscow separatists, had been identified as a suspect by the Netherlands. Ukraine handed him over to Russia in an exchange of prisoners between Moscow and Kiev in September, despite the Netherlands’ appeals not to do so. After asking Moscow to hand him over, Dutch prosecutors received in November a response that his whereabouts were unknown.

“According to media reports, Mr Tsemakh had already returned to his residence in eastern Ukraine,” the Dutch prosecution service said.

Netherlands is leading an investigation into the disaster on Jul 17, 2014, when MH17 was shot down as it flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, with a Russian-made BUK missile, which killed all 298 people on board. Two-thirds of the passengers were Dutch. Moscow denies the accusations.

If the suspects are not turned over to Dutch authorities, the trial will continue without them.