Op-ed by Head of Ukraine’s Mission to the EU Mykola Tochytskyi for EUobserver: MH17 five years on: when will Russia be punished?
On this day five years ago (17 July 2014) 298 passengers of the Malaysian flight MH17 were heading to Kuala Lumpur when suddenly a Russian BUK missile launched from the not by the Ukrainian government controlled part of Donbas hit the plane, killing everyone on board.
It is impossible to imagine the pain and grief of their families and loved ones.
Most of all today I want to convey my profound condolences to the relatives of the victims and assure that Ukraine is committed to find out the truth about this tragedy.
Over these five years, the Joint Investigation Team, consisting of Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, Ukraine and the Netherlands, has been doing everything possible to shed light on the circumstances of this tragedy and bring the perpetrators to justice.
After the profound and comprehensive investigation, the Joint Investigation Team concluded that: the missile system "Buk" used to shoot down MH17 came from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade, a unit of the Russian armed forces from Kursk in the Russian Federation.
The system was illegally transported from the Russian Federation to non-government controlled territory of Ukraine through the uncontrolled part of the Ukrainian-Russian state border.
After firing, the system went back to the Russian Federation.
From the very first days of the MH17 tragedy Russia's propaganda machine poured all available resources and tools to hide the truth, mislead and manipulate.
However, no one believed in its lies.
Since 2015, EU vs Disinformation campaign run by the European External Action Service's East Stratcom Taskforce has collected over 120 pro-Kremlin disinformation cases on MH17.
What is even more important that following the 21st Ukraine-EU summit held in Kyiv this month both sides called on the Russian Federation to accept its responsibility and to cooperate fully with all efforts to establish accountability.
Ukraine has been struggling against Russian military aggression and information warfare for more than five years, but I still cannot get used to Russian blatant lies and hypocrisy when we talk about people's lives.
What Russia tries to do is just to create a "parallel reality" in order to justify its aggression.
Russia tries to justify its occupation of Crimea while the whole democratic world does not recognise the attempted annexation of the Ukraine's peninsula.
Russia tells the ridiculous fairytales that sophisticated weapons in Donbas could be found in the old mines, while the democratic world imposes sanctions for Russian military aggression in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
Russia persecutes more than 100 Ukrainian political prisoners and imprisoned 24 Ukrainian sailors under trumped-up and politically motivated cases, while the democratic world keeps calling on the Russian leadership to stop this inhumanity and release them.
Back in 2015 the Russian Federation vetoed a United Nations Security Council draft resolution on establishing international tribunal to prosecute those responsible for downing MH17, while now Russia is urged by its international partners to stop lying about the circumstances of the tragedy and cooperate with the investigation.
Five years after the MH17 tragedy we are still facing the question: will Russia be punished for 298 innocent victims? Will all those involved be brought to justice?
Ukraine is committed to comprehensive cooperation with the Joint Investigation Team and the counties participating in it.
On June 19, the Joint Investigation Team named the main suspects: active or former agents of the Russian special services and a citizen of Ukraine, who provided assistance to them.
Trial next year in Netherlands
A court trial will commence in March 2020 at a national court in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Taking into account the appalling shooting down of MH17 and Russia's consistent violations of international law, inter alia, of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, Ukraine resorted to the International Court of Justice.
This issue also remains on the radar of Ukraine/EU political agenda.
All this clearly proves that punishment is inevitable.
Ukraine will fully cooperate with our international partners and use all available international mechanisms and legal instruments to reveal the truth and establish the justice.
It takes dignity, courage and honour to play a fair game and be a reliable partner. But all this has nothing to do with Russia, as all it can do – to create a parallel reality and hide behind its own lies.
But I am sure that in the end the truth and justice will prevail. The perpetrators will be held accountable.
It is not only our obligation, it is our moral duty and matter of honour for ourselves and families of the deceased.