Russian ex-spy charged with downing MH17 jet says he ‘feels a moral responsibility’ for the tragedy
- Igor Girkin is one of four people accused of murder over the July 2014 disaster
- Girkin said he felt ‘moral responsibility’ as a commander of separatist forces
- The shoot-down killed all 298 people on Malaysian Airlines flight from Holland
A Russian ex-spy charged with downing the passenger jet MH17 has said he feels a ‘moral responsbility’ for the disaster.
Igor Girkin is one of four people accused of murder over the missile shot in July 2014 which killed all 298 people on the Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine.
Girkin was a commander of separatist forces in eastern Ukraine at the time. Speaking to The Times, he said: ‘In as much as I was the commander of the rebels and a participant in the conflict, I feel a moral responsibility for these deaths.’
However, he denies that he was directly responsible for the crash – saying that his rebel forces ‘did not bring down the plane’.
Igor Girkin (pictured), one of four people accused of involvement in the MH17 disaster in July 2014, has said he feels a ‘moral responsibility’ for the crash
Pro-Russian gunmen stand guard at the crash site in July 2014, after the Malaysia Airlines was brought down by what Dutch investigators say was a Russian missile
Girkin did not elaborate on whether he was blaming the Russian military for the crash, saying: ‘People can interpret this as they like’.
Dutch-led investigators say Girkin was a former colonel in Russia’s FSB security service before joining the separatists during the Ukraine crisis.
In the summer of 2014, he served as ‘minister of defence’ of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, which is backed by Russia.
The MH17 murder trial began in the Netherlands in March this year, although none of the suspects have attended the court proceedings.
The trial in a high-security courtroom near Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport has also been forced to shut out the public because of coronavirus.
The Netherlands has issued an international arrest warrant for the four suspects, but Russia does not extradite its subjects.
Along with Girkin, the other suspects are Russians Sergey Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko.
Prosecutors claim they were involved in arranging and delivering the missile system that brought down the plane.
The investigators say the missile originated from the Russian 53rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade, based in Kursk.
Moscow denies this, and the Kremlin has raised doubts about the objectivity of the Dutch-led investigation – while prosecutors say Russia has tried to sabotage it.
The Russian Defence Ministry said at the time: ‘Not a single air defence missile launcher of the Russian Armed Forces has ever crossed the Russian-Ukrainian border.’
The reconstructed wreckage of MH17 is presented to the media by investigators in 2015. The Netherlands has led the inquiry because the majority of those killed were Dutch citizens
Wilbert Paulissen (left) of the Joint Investigation Team speaks at a press conference last June where charges against four people were announced
Vladimir Putin has called MH17’s downing a ‘terrible tragedy’ but says Moscow was not to blame and that there are other explanations for what happened.
The Malaysia Airlines jet was shot out of the sky on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014.
The crash killed 196 Dutch nationals, 43 Malaysians, 27 Australians and ten Britons among others.
It led to fresh EU sanctions on Russia and further heightened tensions between Moscow and the West. The Netherlands and Australia have said they hold Russia responsible for the crash.
The largest criminal investigation in Dutch history painstakingly reconstructed the events leading up to the disaster.
Police and prosecutors examined tens of thousands of pieces of evidence, including videos, communication tapes, satellite imagery, photos and social media posts.
Last year they released a batch of intercepted phone calls which they allege show close links between the separatists and Russian security services.
Investigators said the separatists were speaking to Russian contacts ‘almost daily’ in the summer of 2014.
Russia’s influence on the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) rebels ‘went beyond military support’ and they spoke on secure lines provided by the FSB, it is alleged.
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