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Four face murder trial over the downing of flight MH17

Clockwise from top left: Oleg Pulatov, Leonid Kharchenko, Sergei Dubinski and Igor Girkin

FOUR men have been charged with murder over the downing of flight MH17, which left 298 people dead.

The three Russians and a Ukrainian were yesterday identified as suspects nearly five years after the Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down over conflict-torn eastern Ukraine.

Dutch National Police chief Wilbert Paulissen named them as Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov — all from Russia — and Leonid Kharchenko, who is from Ukraine.

Massacre: Gunmen stand guard at the MH17 crash site in Ukraine in 2014 PICTURE: GETTY

Their trial is set to start in March next year. Court summons will be issued to Russia ‘to hand to the suspects’ but there are no plans to seek extradition of the quartet.

Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said they are likely to be tried in their absence.

All passengers and crew on board the Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur flight were killed on July 17 2014, when a missile shattered the Boeing 777 in mid-air. A team of international investigators claim the Russian-made missile was fired from separatist-held territory.

But suspect Girkin, a military chief of Russia-backed rebels in the area at the time of the attack, last night told the Associated Press ‘the insurgents did not shoot it [the plane] down’.

Investigators say Dubinsky, like Girkin, is a former Russian intelligence officer, while Pulatov is a former army officer. Kharchenko was the commander of separatist rebels, they added.

Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand, whose son Bryce was among the dead, told of her relief that a trial could finally start next year, although she doubted whether any of the four would appear.

‘This is what we hoped for. This is a start of it. It is a good start,’ she added.