The Verdict Behind The Verdict

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A Dutch court sentenced three Russia-linked men to life imprisonment for their roles in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, Al Jazeera reported Thursday.

The Hague District Court found the men – two Russians and one Ukrainian – guilty in absentia of murder and intentionally causing the Boeing 777 aircraft to crash, killing all 298 passengers and crew on board.

A fourth Russian man was acquitted after the court found he had no prior knowledge of the plan to fire the missile, according to Sky News.

Presiding Judge Hendrik Steenhuis said the plane was downed by a Russian-made Buk missile that was fired from the pro-Russian separatist region in eastern Ukraine, the Donetsk People’s Republic. He added that the court believed that Russia had overall control of the separatist region.

At the time, Russia denied any presence in Ukraine and rejected accusations that it had any involvement in the downing of MH17.

On Thursday, Russian officials said the government would examine the court’s findings.

The verdict comes amid Russia’s nearly nine-month-long offensive in Ukraine, where explosions rocked cities across the country Thursday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised the court’s decision as “important” but added that those who “masterminded” the plane’s downing must now be prosecuted as well.

The victims’ relatives also said they welcomed the decision as a start. Meanwhile, it’s unlikely that the three defendants will serve their sentences anytime soon given that they remain at large.

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