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Ex-rebel leader denies blame for MH17 downing in 2014

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A former rebel leader in eastern Ukraine is denying that the separatists are to blame for downing Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

Russian national Alexander Borodai, who was rA ebel leader in Ukraine’s Donetsk region in 2014 when the plane went down, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he knows that the accusations leveled against the rebels are untrue.

Dutch National Police chief Wilbert Paulissen on Wednesday said that it charged three Russians and one Ukrainian with murder over the downing of flight MH17 in July 2014 with the loss of 298 lives. One of them is rebel commander Igor Girkin.

He identified Russians Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov, along with Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, as suspects in the downing of the plane, and announced that their trial would start in March 2020.

All passengers and crew on board the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were killed on July 17, 2014, when a missile shattered the Boeing 777 in midair, sending debris and bodies raining down onto farms and fields of sunflowers.

The Dutch police also presented a wiretap of an alleged conversation between Borodai and senior Kremlin official Igor Surkov in which they discuss military aid for the separatists.

Borodai on Wednesday denied that did this, calling the released wiretap a “fake.”

The international team investigating the downing of MH17 will not ask Russia and Ukraine to extradite four suspects.

Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said that the team realizes that the constitutions of both countries prohibit that.

“In the short term we will ask Russia to hand the summons to the suspects who are in the Russian Federation,” he said.

The investigators will also ask Russia to arrange for the suspects to be interviewed about the charges, he added.

Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand, whose son Bryce and his girlfriend Daisy Oehlers were among the dead, expressed relief that five years after the plane was blown out of the sky above conflict-torn eastern Ukraine, someone was being held accountable.

She told reporters that the trial would start on March 9, 2020. Investigators briefed the families Wednesday morning before they were due to give a news conference.

All 298 passengers and crew on board the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were killed on July 17, 2014, when a missile shattered the Boeing 777 in midair sending debris and bodies raining down onto farms and fields of sunflowers.

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