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Four charged over shooting down of flight MH17

Justice: Dutch National Police chief Wilbert Paulissen identifies the suspects Igor Girkin, Oleg Pulatov, Sergey Dubinskiy, Leonid Kharchenko PICTURE: EPA

THREE Russians and one Ukrainian have been charged with murder in the Netherlands over the downing of flight MH17 in July 2014 with the loss of 298 lives.

Dutch National Police chief Wilbert Paulissen identified Russians Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov, along with Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, as suspects in the downing of the plane in Ukrainian air space, and announced that their trial would start in March 2020.

Devastation: Debris of flight MH17 which was shot down over Ukraine in July 2014, killing 298 people PICTURES: EPA

All passengers and crew on board the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were killed on July 17, 2014, when a missile shattered the Boeing 777 in midair sending debris and bodies raining down onto farms and fields of sunflowers.

One of the named murder suspects denied Ukrainian separatists shot down the plane, despite an international investigation team determining a Russian missile from separatist-held territory was instrumental in the downing of it.

Girkin, a Russian national, was a military chief of the Russia-backed rebels in the area at the time and was named by the investigators as one of the key suspects.

The international team investigating the downing of the flight will not ask Russia and Ukraine to extradite the four suspects.

Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said that the team realises that the constitutions of both countries prohibit that.

‘In the short term we will ask Russia to hand the summons to the suspects who are in the Russian Federation,’ he said.

Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand, whose son Bryce was among the dead, expressed relief that five years after the plane was blown out of the sky above conflict-torn eastern Ukraine, a trial could finally start next year.

‘This is what we hoped for,’ Ms Fredriksz-Hoogzand said. ‘This is a start of it. It is a good start.’