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4 suspects named in 2014 shootdown of MH17 over Ukraine

By Clyde Hughes & Darryl Coote
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Part of the wreckage of MH17 is seen at the main crash site near Grabovo, Ukraine, east of Donetsk on July 20, 2014. File Photo by Igor Kovalenko/EPA-EFE
Part of the wreckage of MH17 is seen at the main crash site near Grabovo, Ukraine, east of Donetsk on July 20, 2014. File Photo by Igor Kovalenko/EPA-EFE

June 19 (UPI) -- Investigators on Wednesday named four suspects they say are responsible for the shootdown of a Malaysian Airlines flight five years ago over Ukraine -- the first suspects to be named in the case.

The Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team named the suspects as Russians Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko.

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The crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 killed nearly 300 people and it was long suspected it was shot down in midair by Russian-supported separatist groups. Russian President Vladimir Putin has long denied his government had any role in the attack.

Prosecutors said they will file criminal charges against all four suspects, who remain at-large. Girkin, Dubinsky and Pulatov are believed to be in Russia and Kharchenko somewhere in Ukraine.

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The Joint Investigation Team has spent years combing through evidence before making the announcement Wednesday. Of the passengers, 193 were from the Netherlands, 43 from Malaysia, 38 from Australia, 12 from Indonesia, 10 from Britain and one from New Zealand.

Internet investigative organization Bellingcat was also set Wednesday to announce new evidence in the case.

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he welcomes the announcement and the United States fully supports the JIT's investigation.

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"This is an important milestone in the search for the truth, and we remain confident in the professionalism and ability of the Dutch criminal justice system to prosecute those responsible in a manner that is fair and just," he said in a statement.

He also called upon Russia to ensure that any of the named suspects currently in Russia face justice, as is its responsibility as one of 15 signatories to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2166. The resolution states that all signatories demand that those responsible for downing the plane "be held to account and that all States cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability."

The JIT said last year a launcher connected with the Russian military, owned by the country's anti-aircraft brigade, was used in the assault. That confirmed earlier findings that a Russian BUK missile was fired from an agricultural field controlled by Russian-supported fighters.

Investigators have long held Moscow responsible for the attack and confirmed in a report a year ago a missile downed the airliner, which was flying between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur when it was destroyed.

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