Netherlands considers Tsemakh MH17 plane crash suspect, not witness, following Ukraine-Russia prisoner swap

The Netherlands Public Prosecution Service has reclassified Vladimir Tsemakh from a witness to a suspect in the case concerning the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, European Parliament member Kati Piri told DW in an interview.

According to her, the Joint Investigation Team and the Dutch prosecution service have distributed a letter stating that Tsemakh is now considered a suspect.

Kati Piri was the author of an open letter signed on September 4 by 40 members of European Parliament calling on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky not to hand over Vladimir Tsemakh to Moscow. She says that Kyiv’s decision to include Tsemakh on the prisoner exchange list was extremely painful for both the Netherlands and the relatives of the MH17 catastrophe victims.

“From an international perspective, Ukraine has obligations, which envisage comprehensive cooperation in the attempts to find those responsible for the downing of MH17. By handing over one of the suspects to Moscow, Ukraine has not kept its promise,” the parliamentarian believes.

Piri added that Russia’s insistent demand that Tsemakh be handed over is evidence that Moscow acknowledges its guilt in the MH17 catastrophe.

The politician remarked that it was naive of the Netherlands to assume that Russia would hand over Tsemakh to testify as a witness.

In July it was learned that Ukrainian intelligence operatives had arrested Vladimir Tsemakh, a former anti-air commander in the Donetsk People’s Republic, and brought him from separatist-controlled Snizhne into Kyiv-controlled territory. Ukraine accused Tsemakh of creating a terrorist organization.

On September 5, the Kyiv Court of Appeal released Tsemakh on his own recognizance.

On September 7, the prisoner swap resulted in 35 Ukrainians returning home, including 24 sailors and 11 political prisoners. According to provisional information, 35 people were also sent to Russia, and Tsemakh was one of them.

  Tsemakh, Russia, MH17, Russia, Donbas