Angry families of MH17 victims accuse Russia of lying
AMSTERDAM: Relatives of the 298 victims of Malaysian Airlines flight 17 on Monday (Sep 6) accused Russia of lying about its alleged role in the downing of the plane as they began testifying in the Dutch murder trial of four suspects.
International investigators concluded that the passenger plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine with a missile fired by pro-Russian rebels. Moscow denies all responsibility.
“They are lying, we know they are lying and they know that we know that they are lying,” Ria van der Steen, who lost her father and stepmother on the flight, told the court, saying she was citing the late Soviet dissident writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
Van der Steen was the first of dozens of relatives who will be given an opportunity to speak or submit written statements over the coming three weeks.
MH17 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was hit by what international investigators and prosecutors say was a Russian surface-to-air missile.
Van der Steen made the remarks about lying in Russian, explaining that she did so “for the benefit of those who are listening in on behalf of the Russian regime today”.
“I want it to be known that I know where the responsibility lies” she said, adding that “lying and falsehoods are a familiar tactic in this game of cat and mouse through which we are aspiring to uncover the truth”.
Russia, which maintains that it has not funded or supported rebels fighting Ukrainian government troops, has refused to extradite the suspects.
MH17 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was hit by what international investigators and prosecutors say was a Russian surface-to-air missile that originated from a Russian base just across the Ukrainian border.
Three Russians and a Ukrainian citizen, all suspected of having key roles in the separatist forces, are on trial for murder.
After years of collecting evidence, a team of international investigators concluded in May 2018 that the launcher used to fire the missile belonged to Russia’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade.
The fugitive suspects have been on trial for a year and a half. Only one sent lawyers to represent him so the case is not considered to be entirely tried in absentia under Dutch law.