Murder In The Sky: Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17

Vladimir Tsemakh, an Ukrainian man suspected of involvement in the downing of flight MH17, is about to leave a dock of Kyiv court of appeal after the court verdict in Kyiv on Sept. 5, 2019.

Photo by AFP

The Netherlands has changed the status of Volodymyr Tsemakh, previously considered a key witness in the case of the downing of the Malaysian Airline Boeing 777 (MH17) over Donbas to suspect in the same case, said Dutch Member of European Parliament Kati Piri.

In an interview published by the German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle on Sept. 11, Piri said the Joint International Investigation Team (JIT) and the Dutch prosecutor had distributed a letter stating that, according to recent information released this summer, Tsemakh is now considered a suspect in the investigation.

Piri co-authored an open letter signed on Sept. 4 by 40 deputies of the European Parliament calling on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to prevent Tsemakh from being transferred to Moscow.

In her opinion, Ukraine paid too high price for returning its citizens to their homeland. Piri said that Kyiv’s decision to include Tsemakh on the prisoner exchange list “was extremely painful for the Netherlands and for the relatives of the victims of the downed plane.”

“From an international point of view, Ukraine has obligations that provide for full cooperation in trying to find those responsible for the downed MH17. And having given one of the suspects to Moscow, Ukraine did not keep its promise,” Piri said.

Piri said Russia’s insistent demand for Ukraine to include Tsemakh in the prisoner exchange shows that Moscow admits its guilt in downing of flight MH17.

Piri said there is practically no chance that the JIT will be able to interrogate Tsemakh.

“Of course, we can ask Russia to provide him for interrogation. But we are not so naive. If Moscow wanted Tsemakh to be able to be summoned for interrogation, it would not have insisted on including him in the prisoner exchange. Therefore, I’m afraid that Tsemakh will never appear again in court as a witness,” Piri said.

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