Netherlands asked Ukraine not to hand over MH17 suspect to Russia

Activists of Ukrainian nationalist groups shout slogans during a protest against a court decision to release on bail Volodymyr Tsemakh, suspected of involvement in the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 plane in 2014, in Kiev, Ukraine September 5, 2019. — Reuters pic
Activists of Ukrainian nationalist groups shout slogans during a protest against a court decision to release on bail Volodymyr Tsemakh, suspected of involvement in the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 plane in 2014, in Kiev, Ukraine September 5, 2019. — Reuters pic

THE HAGUE, Sept 7 — The Netherlands pressed Kiev hard to drop the handover to Russia of a key figure in the 2014 downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 and regrets it was done, the government said today.

The Dutch government contacted Ukraine “several times and at the very highest level” in an effort to prevent the handover of Vladimir Tsemakh, believed to be an air defence specialist for pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine, Foreign Minister Stef Blok said in a letter to parliament, adding that he “regretted” Kiev’s decision.

MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down by a Russian-made missile in July 2014 over eastern Ukraine, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board, two-thirds of them Dutch.

Blok said the authorities had had the opportunity to question Tsemakh before he left for Russia but the Netherlands still profoundly regretted the outcome.

Russia had insisted that Tsemakh be handed over and consistently rejects any suggestion that it had a role in the disaster.

“The government notes once again that Russia is supposed to cooperate” with the investigation, Blok added.

Earlier Saturday, Russia and Ukraine carried out a long-awaited swap of 70 prisoners in a deal hailed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as a “first step” towards ending their conflict. — AFP

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