Four men who international investigators believe are responsible for shooting down MH17 have been named and charged with murder.
The men are Russians Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, all of whom were fighting for Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine when the jet was shot down over the territory in 2014.
Girkin is a former FSB agent who has fought in a number of Russian proxy-conflicts, Dubinsky is another Russian ex-intelligence officer, Pulatov is a former lieutenant colonel in the Russian army, while Kharchenko was the commander of a Ukrainian separatist battalion.
National Police chief of the Netherlands Wilbert Paulissen identified the men at a press conference Wednesday based on research from the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team.
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Wilbert Paulissen, national Police chief of the Netherlands, announces murder charges against three Russians and one Ukrainian over the shoot-down of MH17
Igor Girkin (left) and Sergey Dubinsky (right), both Russian ex-intelligence officers, were named by international investigators as two of the men responsible for shooting down MH17
Oleg Pulatov, a Russian ex-army officer, and Leonid Kharchenko, the Ukrainian commander of separatist rebels in the country’s east, have also been identified
Families of the victims – 196 of whom were Dutch – became emotional as they spoke to journalists outside the press conference Nieuwegein about the findings. They had earlier been briefed by investigators.
The development comes a year after the same team concluded that the missile which shot down the plane came from a Russian military brigade based in Kursk.
Elsewhere on Wednesday, open-source intelligence community Bellingcat published its own research identifying a dozen individuals – including the four named by Dutch investigators – which it says were involved in the shoot-down of the jet.
For the first time Bellingcat claimed to have established what role the men played in shooting down the jet, as well as a command-tree linking them together – with Girkin sitting at the top.
MH17 was shot out of the sky in 2014 over territory held by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine as it flew from Amsterdam to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.
Silene Fredriksz, mother of one of the MH17 victims, speaks to reporters outside the press conference in Nieuwegein, having earlier been briefed on the findings
Ms Fredriksz, whose 23-year-old son Bryce and his girlfriend Daisy were going on a dream holiday when they were killed in the disaster, became emotional as she spoke
All four men named Wednesday were fighting for Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine when MH17 was shot down, investigators say, despite Russia insisting the missile was fired by Ukrainian forces (pictured, a pro-Russia separatist near a part of the plane)
The reconstructed wreckage of MH17 is presented to the media by Dutch investigators back in 2015
Of those killed, 196 were Dutch and another 38 were Australian. Passengers from Belgium, Malaysia, and Ukraine were also killed.
Once the names and charges have been announced, the next step would be to attempt to put the accused on trial.
Russia is not expected to surrender any potential suspects who may be on its territory and authorities have said individuals could be tried in absentia.
The Joint Investigation Team, which seeks to try the suspects under Dutch law, has said the missile system came from the Russian 53rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade, based in the western Russian city of Kursk.
MH17 taking off from Amsterdam’s Schipol airport just 24 hours before it was shot down over Ukraine
Russia has insisted that the missile was fired by Kiev’s forces, and that the weapon was sent to Ukraine by the Soviets and was never returned to Russia.
Dutch officials have said they would looking into the allegations, but noted that previous information given by Moscow has been proved incorrect and that generally speaking Russia has been uncooperative with the investigation.
The Joint Investigation Team was formed in 2014 by Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine to investigate collaboratively.
The Netherlands and Australia, which lost 38 people, hold Russia legally responsible.
Moscow denies all involvement and maintains that it does not support, financially or with equipment, pro-Russian rebels fighting Ukrainian government troops.