Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he “welcomes” the trial of four fugitive suspects charged in the 2014 crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.
In a statement released on March 8, Pompeo said the trial, which is set to begin Monday at Schiphol Judicial Complex (JCS) in Badhoevedorp, the Netherlands, was “a critical moment in the search for justice,” and encouraged all states “to cooperate in efforts to establish accountability.”
“As the trial begins, we recall the U.N. Security Council’s demand that ‘those responsible … be held to account and that all states cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability,” Pompeo said in a statement.
“All of those indicted are members of Russia-led forces in eastern Ukraine. We call upon all states to cooperate in efforts to establish accountability, in accordance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 2166.”
“This trial is a critical moment in the search for justice for the families and friends of the 298 individuals who lost their lives on July 17, 2014,” he added.
The Secretary of State said the United States has the “utmost confidence in the Dutch legal system to establish the truth and to do justice in this case,” and urged Russia to “cease its continuing aggressive and destabilizing activities in Ukraine.”
Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down with a Russian-made missile over eastern Ukraine in July 2014. Wreckage of the Boeing 777 fell into fields surrounding the Ukrainian village of Hrabove in territory held by pro-Russian separatists fighting Ukrainian government forces.
It was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, when it was hit by a surface-to-air missile. There were no survivors.
Arrest warrants were issued last year for four suspects: Russians Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy and Oleg Pulatov as well as Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, who were identified by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), made up of detectives and prosecutors from the Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia, Belgium, and Ukraine, who spent several years collecting evidence.
The four held senior positions in pro-Russian militia in eastern Ukraine in 2014. The JIT said they had not pulled the trigger, but colluded to carry out the attack.
Girkin, a vocal and battle-hardened Russian nationalist, was minister of defense in the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic in Ukraine. Dubinsky, Pulatov, and Kharchenko were members of the separatists’ military intelligence unit.
None of the suspects are expected to attend the trial as neither Russia nor Ukraine extradites their citizens. However, under Dutch law the trial can continue even if the suspects don’t show up.
Russia has repeatedly denied its involvement in the flight’s downing, calling the investigation team’s results a “biased, one-sided nature of the inquiry,” according to NL Times.
President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the Kremlin would wait to see how the trial panned out before commenting, but said Russia had always had doubts about the objectivity of the Dutch-led investigation.
Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also said it welcomed the trial in a statement on March 7, calling it a “significant milestone towards finding the truth and establishing justice for the victims of the flight.” There were 43 Malaysian passengers and crew on board MH17 when it crashed.
Reuters contributed to this article.