The European Union commemorated on Wednesday the fifth anniversary of the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, an event that led to the death of 298 innocent civilians, many of whom were citizens of EU countries.
“On this day, we commemorate the fifth anniversary of the tragic downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which led to the death of 298 innocent people. Our hearts are with all those who lost their loved ones and we continue to share their grief,” the European Union’s official statement read. “The EU calls on Russia to accept its responsibility and cooperate fully with the ongoing investigation.”
The passenger flight was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down over war-torn Ukraine at 10:15 GMT on 17 July 2014. A few hours after take-off, the plane lost contact with air traffic control about 50 kilometres from the Russia-Ukraine border.
At the time, open warfare was raging on the ground between Russian forces and their local separatist proxies and Ukrainian government forces. Several Ukrainian military aircraft had been downed by the Russians in the previous weeks, while government airstrikes were being carried out on rebel-held strongholds.
In October 2015, the Dutch Safety Board concluded the plane had been hit by a Russian-made Buk anti-aircraft missile, causing it to break apart in mid-air.
The JIT – the Dutch-led joint investigation team which includes officials from The Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, and Ukraine – concluded in May of last year that the missile system belonged to the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade based in the Russian city of Kursk.
The JIT produced evidence that it said proved how the missile system had reached eastern Ukraine from across the Russian border and was later deployed in areas where militant pro-Moscow rebels were in control.
Dutch prosecutors have announced charges against four suspects in the case, including three Russians and a Ukrainian. Those charged with the murder of the nearly 300 onboard include Russian intelligence officers Igor Girkin, Oleg Pulatov, and Sergei Dubinsky – all of whom were prominent commanders in eastern Ukraine at the time – and Leonid Kharchenko, a Ukrainian with no known military experience, but who was the leader of a pro-Russian militia group operating in the area where MH17 was shot down.