On 17 July 2014, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down while flying over eastern Ukraine.
At the time, the Dutch Joint Investigation Team (JIT) set up to investigate the incident established Ukrainian separatists from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) used a Russian Buk-TELAR (transporter erector launcher and radar) system, acquired from the Russian Army’s 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade, near Kursk.
Now, evidence links President Vladimir Putin to the downing of the plane, being responsible for approving the shipping of the rocket to the separatists, the JIT told a court on 8 January. Although the evidence is not conclusive and, as a head of state, Putin would be immune to prosecution, phone calls obtained by the investigators suggest he was personally involved.
In the second half of June 2014, the DPR separatists asked for anti-government guns with higher range, JIT told CNN. Their request was first discussed at the Presidential administration in Moscow, a state body that supports the president, then presented to the Minister of Defence and the President.
There is concrete information that the request from the separatists is presented to the president, and that a positive decision is taken.Joint Investigation Team
“In recorded telephone conversations, Russian government officials say that the decision about military support rests with the president. The decision is even delayed a week ‘because there is only one who makes a decision […] the person who is at a summit in France’, President Putin at that time, on 5 and 6 June 2014, being at the D Day commemoration in France”, the investigators indicated.
While the team could not determine whether the Buk system was explicitly mentioned in the request, they are certain the president personally approved the delivery of heavy air-defence systems to Ukraine. “Because at this moment it cannot be determined who the operators of the Buk-TELAR were and other concrete information about this is lacking, it cannot be determined why they fired a Buk rocket at MH17, what their mission was and what information they had at the moment of firing”, the JIT said.
All of the 298 people onboard the MH17 were killed by the crash and the JIT has informed their families about the development of their investigation. In November 2022, two Russians, Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinsky, and one Ukrainian, Leonid Kharchenko, were sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment by a Dutch court, having been found guilty of mass murder for their involvement in downing the plane.