Comment by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova on the start of the MH17 trial at the District Court of The Hague

The first session of the trial on the crash of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in July 2014 started in the District Court of The Hague on March 9-10.

During the previous briefing we gave detailed coverage of this issue on the eve of the trial. We said the Western media had launched an unprecedented accusatory media campaign that has become direct pressure on the court and an aggravation of anti-Russia sentiment.

Now that the first session has been held, it is clear that our evaluation was well grounded. Although the court dealt only with procedural issues in this session, like the schedule and the order of the sessions, and the presence of participants, the frenzy over the trial has not abated. On the contrary, it has been fueled by some Western politicians, investigators and prosecutors.

I noted the unceremonious approach of the prosecution that is openly precipitating the trial and demanding that the court formally sanction the only imposed version of the crash as soon as possible. I will offer only one fact by way of example. At this point, Dutch prosecutors are quoting the testimonies of some anonymous witnesses that ostensibly have indisputable evidence of the guilt of the defendants. As usual, the public is being influenced by the “highly likely” thrills of the activities of the Russian secret services. They are being accused of attempting to identify the witnesses, intimidate them and impede efforts to establish the real picture of the tragedy. A lot of fake news has been published during these days.

I would like to recall that Russia is not part of this trial. Moreover, the assertions of Russia’s involvement in this disaster are groundless and are based on questionable sources.

Charges have been brought against one Ukrainian and three Russian citizens. Attorneys represent one of them. They have already requested that the court carefully study all 30,000 pages of the trial materials. That, of course, will take them some time (this opinion is shared even by non-professionals). Legal counsel has justifiably raised questions that we and certain Dutch MPs have asked many times, notably, why Ukraine did not close its air space over the zone of the hostilities and why this issue has not been fully investigated. Up until now, dozens of well-grounded questions also remain unanswered. Questions have been raised not only by Russians but also by politicians, journalists and civil society representatives that have not accepted the mainstream version that was basically imposed on them.

We do not want to anticipate the court’s verdicts. We hope all accessible information, rather than the arguments of the prosecution alone, will be reviewed at the trial without bias. If the trial is truly independent and unbiased it will have to include a study of all the facts around this tragedy, require additional examinations (this is obvious), and question other witnesses and experts, not just those selected by the prosecutors. It will be necessary to analyse in detail the actions or inactions of the Ukrainian authorities, and to verify the authenticity of the photo, video and audio feeds presented by the prosecution. This is just the first look at what should be done at the trial if it is truly unbiased.

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