to updateRussian President Vladimir Putin bestowed an honorary title upon the major general who participated in the downing of Flight MH17 in 2014. Members of the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade can now call themselves the “Guardians” because of their “determination and courage,” according to a statement from Putin’s website. Prime Minister Mark Rutte denounces the honorary title bestowed upon him by Putin.
It is precisely the 53rd Brigade that has been mentioned countless times in recent years in the courtroom in Schiphol where the MH17 trial took place. The Joint Investigation Team investigating the downing of the aircraft came to the conclusion that it was done using a Buk missile. That missile was fired from a missile facility of the Russian Army’s 53rd Brigade.
Shortly before MH17 was shot down on July 17, 2014, the Buk facility was said to have crossed the border from Russia into Ukraine. After the crash, the car, with three remaining missiles, returned to Russia and then disappeared. All 298 people on board were killed.
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Earlier this month, the JIT announced in a press conference that it had managed to retrieve several officers’ names from the brigade that supposedly belonged to the staff of the Buk facility in question. However, the researchers were unable to confirm the names. The investigation has since stalled, as the officers likely will not be able to bring them to a court outside of Russia. As soldiers, they have some kind of immunity.
JIT also stated that Russian President Putin himself may have given permission to move Facebook’s facilities from Russia to Ukraine. He wanted to support the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine in their fight against the Ukrainian army. Then Russia summoned the Dutch ambassador to the mat. Russia said that “obsessive attempts by the Dutch authorities to hold the Russian Federation unfoundedly responsible for the crash of Flight MH17 must end.”
“A complete show of disrespect”
Prime Minister Mark Rutte denounces the honorary title bestowed on the general by Putin by Putin. “I find this award really grim,” Rutte said to a question from D66 member Sjoerd Sjoerdsma. It also fits perfectly with the cynical and ruthless Kremlin policy.
According to him, this is “a complete display of disrespect towards the victims and relatives of Flight MH17.”
Russia denies that the MH17 was shot down by a Russian missile. JIT states that this did indeed happen, but that MH17 was not an intentional target and that it may have been a mistake. However, the Dutch court sentenced three executives of the pro-Russian separatists (two Russians and one Ukrainian) to life imprisonment for their role in moving the Buk.
It is unclear why the 53rd Brigade was awarded an honorary title at this time. Nor is it clear if that was Russia’s response to the Dutch accusations against the general.
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