Russian suspect in MH-17 airliner downing denies charges on last trial day

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Investigators present latest findings in MH17 downing, in Nieuwegein

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - One of the four men on trial for murder over the shooting down of an airliner over Ukraine in 2014 told Dutch judges on the final day of his trial on Friday that he is not guilty as his lawyers said he should be acquitted.

Prosecutors say Oleg Pulatov, two other Russian nationals and a Ukrainian helped supply a missile system that Russian-backed separatists used to fire a missile at Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. All 298 people on board were killed.

In December prosecutors demanded life terms for Pulatov, Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky and Leonid Kharchenko. All remain at large and only Pulatov instructed lawyers to act on his behalf. The others are being tried in absentia.

"I am not guilty, I had nothing to do with the crash on July 17, 2014," Pulatov said in a Russian video statement played in court and translated into English.

Most of the victims of the incident, which occurred after Russian proxies launched a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine, were Dutch nationals. The Dutch government holds Russia responsible. Authorities in Moscow deny involvement.

On the last day of the trial, which started in March 2020, Pulatov's lawyers argued that prosecutors had not properly explored alternative scenarios that could explain the crash. They said there was no evidence linking their client to the alleged firing of a missile.

After years of collecting evidence, an international team of investigators concluded in May 2018 that the Buk missile launcher used to shoot down the aircraft, which was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, belonged to Russia's 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade.

Judges have adjourned the case and a verdict is expected in towards the end of this year.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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