AMSTERDAM – Dutch prosecutors on Monday began three days of closing arguments during which they will make their sentencing demand in the 20-month-trial in the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine.
Three Russian and a Ukrainian could face sentences of up to life if found guilty of helping supply the missile system used to fire a rocket at the passenger jet as it flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. All 298 people onboard were killed.
A sentencing demand was expected on Wednesday.
Prosecutors presenting their closing arguments on Monday said the plane was shot down by a Russian-made missile.
Prosecutor Thijs Berger recalled the moment on July 17, 2014 when Ukrainian air traffic control lost contact with flight MH17.
“At that moment a warhead from a BUK missile detonated to the left of the cockpit, shrapnel and missile parts pierced the left of the cockpit and the accompanying blast does the rest,” Berger said.
“The passengers of flight MH17 didn’t stand a chance,” he added.
None of the defendants were present in court. One suspect, Russian Oleg Pulatov, is represented by lawyers during the trial, but remains at large. The others, Russians Sergey Dubinsky and Igor Girkin and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, have never cooperated with the court and are being tried in absentia.
MH17 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down by a missile fired from territory held by pro-Russian rebels during fighting with Ukrainian government troops, international investigators say.
After years of collecting evidence, a Dutch-led international Joint Investigation Team (JIT) concluded in 2019 that the missile launcher used to hit the civilian airplane came from a Russian army base just across the border.
The Dutch government has said it holds Russia responsible but Moscow has always denied involvement and has promoted a range of alternative theories, which the international investigators rejected as unsupported by evidence.
A verdict is likely to be handed down late next year.