The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has placed Vladimir Tsemakh on the national wanted list, Ukrayinsky Noviny (Ukrainian News) reported, citing the Ukrainian Interior Ministry’s list of wanted persons. Tsemakh is a former anti-air defense commander of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), and an important witness in the case surrounding the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 (MH17) over the Donbas in 2014.
Tsemakh has been accused of committing the crimes envisaged by §3 Article 258 (the terrorist act) and §1 Article 258-3 (creating a terrorist group or terrorist organization) of Ukraine’s Criminal Code. He was placed on the wanted list as a person hiding from the pre-trial investigation authorities. His date of disappearance is September 23, and his place of disappearance is not mentioned.
Sources in the SBU said that the investigation of the case against Tsemakh has continued, even though he was handed over to Russia.
On July 17, 2014, a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam (Netherlands) to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) was shot down over Ukraine’s Donetsk region. All 298 people on board were killed.
On September 7, 2019, Ukraine and Russia did a prisoner swap, each handing over 35 prisoners. One of the prisoners handed over by Ukraine was Tsemakh, even though he had already been declared a suspect in the MH17 case.
The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that was established to investigate the catastrophe presented its findings on September 28, 2016 in the Netherlands. The team concluded that the airliner had been shot down by a 9M38 missile fired from a mobile Buk launcher from an agricultural field near the city of Pervomaisk. At the time, that region was under the control of pro-Russian separatists. According to the investigation, the Buk was brought into Ukraine from Russia, and returned to Russia after being used to shoot down the passenger aircraft.
Tsemakh was the commander of a group of militants in Snizhne in 2014. On July 11, 2019, he was captured in Snizhne and brought to Ukraine in a special operation. The Ukrainian soldier Oleksandr Kolodyazhniy later died from wounds received during the raid.
Some time ago, journalists discovered a video in which Tsemakh, then anti-air defense commander of the “DPR Sloviansk Brigade”, admitted to concealing the Buk that was used against flight MH17.
The Dutch Foreign Minister said that the Netherlands “deeply regrets” the fact that, under pressure from Russia, Ukraine included Tsemakh in the prisoner exchange. However, he noted that the Dutch prosecutors did have an opportunity to question the militant before he was handed over.