Ukraine welcomes MH17 verdict, wants those who ordered attack to face trial

Ukraine's President Zelenskiy speaks during a joint news conference with Czech Prime Minister Fiala in Kyiv

KYIV (Reuters) -Kyiv welcomed the murder convictions handed out by a Dutch court on Thursday to three men for their role in the 2014 shooting down of a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine, but said those who ordered the attack must face trial.

The court in The Hague issued the sentences after saying Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by a Russian-made missile fired from a field in eastern Ukraine and that Russia had overall control of separatist forces at the time.

"An important decision of the court in The Hague. The first sentences for those responsible for shooting down #MH17," President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter.

"But it is necessary that those who ordered it also end up in the dock because the feeling of impunity leads to new crimes. We have to dispel this illusion. Punishment for all Russian atrocities - both then and now - will be inevitable."

The plane was shot down as Russian-backed separatists fought Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine, a region where fighting continues following Russian's invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

The three men convicted were former Russian intelligence agents Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinskiy, and Leonid Kharchenko, a Ukrainian separatist leader.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba hailed a "profound joint effort" by Ukraine, the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, and Malaysia.

"Today’s verdicts send a message to Russia: no amount of lies can help escape justice. All criminals up the Russian chain of command shall be held accountable," he wrote on Twitter.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said the ruling sent "the strongest signal to the whole world, including Russia itself, that every war crime committed by the Russians will be documented, investigated and brought to a conclusion. No matter how much time it takes."

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Max Hunder, Editinbg by Timothy Heritage)