Skip to main content
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track on the Olympic Games
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track onthe Olympics Games
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

A part of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 at the crash site in the village of Hrabove, Ukraine, on Aug. 2, 2014.

BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images

Nearly seven years after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, the trial in a Dutch court of three Russians and a Ukrainian accused of involvement in the downing moved Monday to the crucial merits phase, when evidence will be discussed by lawyers and judges.

Families of some of the victims were present in court to watch the latest hearing in the long-running case.

“It’s a very difficult day for us. You know, it’s now the first day of the prosecution,” said Evert van Zijtveld, whose daughter Frederique and son Robert-Jan were among the 298 passengers and crew killed when the Boeing 777 was shot down on July 17, 2014.

Story continues below advertisement

The trial that has progressed through a series of preliminary hearings since opening in March 2020 will in the coming days begin examining the huge case file pieced together after a years-long international investigation.

“The file consists of about 65,000 pages and many hundreds of hours of visual and audio material. It’s such a large case that it’s simply not possible to speak about every detail,” Presiding Judge Hendrik Steenhuis said at the start of Monday’s hearing, before summarizing the case.

“Up until today, no one has come forward and said that they are even partially responsible for what happened,” Steenhuis said.

The first discussions of evidence are scheduled for Tuesday.

The four suspects were not in the courtroom near Schiphol Airport and are being tried in their absence. They face life sentences if convicted of murdering the 298 people who died when the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was blown out of the sky above conflict-torn eastern Ukraine.

The international investigation concluded that the plane was destroyed by a Buk missile fired from territory controlled by pro-Russia separatist rebels. The investigation said that the missile was brought into Ukraine on a mobile launcher from a military base in Russia. Russia has denied any involvement.

The three Russians charged with involvement in the downing are Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy and Oleg Pulatov, as well as Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko. Only Pulatov is being represented by defence lawyers, who have told the court he is innocent.

Story continues below advertisement

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov lamented that Russia has been kept away from the probe. “To our regret, Russia isn’t a part of the mechanism for investigating what happened, we have been effectively excluded from this mechanism,” Peskov said in a conference call with reporters.

Russia has over the years come up with various theories as to the cause of the crash, generally laying the blame on the Ukrainian side.

Peskov said Monday that the Kremlin has closely followed the trial, and “unlike many others, we don’t ignore alternative information but take it into account.”

Steenhuis warned relatives that the coming days could be tough as he outlines evidence about the deaths of their loved ones.

“Unpleasant findings may be discussed,” he said before telling people in the courtroom: “Should this become too much for you, you are at liberty to leave the room at any point in time.”

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies