Nearly five years after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed in Ukraine killing 298 people, prosecutors brought the first criminal charges against four suspects Wednesday.
The Joint Investigation Team, which consists of officials from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine, charged Russians Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy and Oleg Pulatov as well as Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, reported BBC.
The suspects are not accused of firing the missile that took down the plane, but of acquiring the missile “with the goal to shoot a plane,” CNN reported.
The suspects are “just as punishable as the person who committed the crime,” Dutch prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said according to CNN. (RELATED: UN Releases Most Complete Report To Date On Jamal Khashoggi’s Murder. The Findings Don’t Look Good For Saudi Arabia)
Girkin is a former colonel in Russia’s Federal Security Service — the FSB. The agency is the successor of the Soviet Union’s KGB.
Dubinskiy worked for the Russian military intelligence agency GRU and Pulatov was in Russia’s special forces, investigators said, according to CNN.
Trial for the four is scheduled for 2020 in the Netherlands. However, the four men might be tried in absentia, according to CNN.
“Investigators said they would not ask for the suspects to be extradited because the Russian and Ukrainian constitutions prohibit extraditing nationals,” CNN reported.
“However added that they would ask Russia to cooperate with the investigation, and both countries to question the suspects about the charges.”
Flight MH17 was shot down over war-torn region of Ukraine near the Russian border on July 17, 2014.
The missile was fired from a launcher belonging to the Russian military, investigators said in May 2018.
However, Russia denies involvement and has tried to shift blame to Ukrainian forces, reported CNN.
MH17 was on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, when it went down over territory held by pro-Russian separatists, according to CNN.
The suspects’ court case is set to start on March 9, according to the BBC.
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