MH17 royal intervention: Monarch meets team investigating Malaysia Airlines disaster

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands travelled to Rotterdam yesterday to meet those researchers who gave investigated the MH17 disaster for years. As 193 out of the 283 passengers on the plane were Dutch nationals, the MH17 tragedy is particularly close to the King’s heart. 

During his day in Rotterdam, the monarch spoke to employees of the Public Prosecution Service, the Ministry of Justice and Security and the Dutch police.

Speaking to Government employees, the King heard about their work and the complexity of the investigation.

The meeting with members of the MH17 research team is particularly poignant as it comes just a few weeks before the beginning of a trial looking into who may have shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. 

Three Russians and a Ukrainian were charged during last summer with bringing a missile into the area in eastern Ukraine and murdering 298 passengers and 15 crew members.

Russians Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov as well as Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko have been named by a Dutch-led joint investigation team and hit by an international arrest warrant.

The court case will begin on March 9 in The Hague.

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The Kuala Lumpur-bound flight left Amsterdam on July 17 2014 and disappeared from the radars when he was travelling over Ukraine.

At the time, an armed conflict was raging in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces.

Other aeroplanes flying over the area were downed during previous weeks.

Parts of the wreckage were scattered over a 19-square-mile area in Donetsk.

After months of speculation regarding the crash, the Dutch Safety Board concluded in October 2015 the plane had been hit by a Buk missile, which broke the aircraft apart.

In May 2018, a team including officials from The Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, Malaysia and Ukraine, concluded that the missile system belonged to the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile brigade, based in the western Russian city of Kursk. 

This brought both Australia and the Netherlands to hold Russia responsible for the crash.

However, Russia rejected these findings and claimed none of its anti-aircraft missile systems had ever crossed the Ukrainian border.

In September 2019, King Willem-Alexander took the centre stage at the UN General Assembly to urge everyone, including Russia, to cooperate on finding the truth about the MH17 flight. 

He said: “It is unacceptable for individuals responsible for international crimes to escape their just punishment.

“In this forum I wish to repeat that, under Security Council resolution 2166, all countries – including Russia – must cooperate fully with efforts to establish the truth about the downing of flight MH17 on 17 July 2014.

“The families of the 298 victims expect justice, and we will not rest until justice is done.”   

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