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Four suspects to be prosecuted over attack on MH17

Joint investigators have identified four suspects they intend to prosecute over the destruction of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 five years ago.

The aircraft, a Boeing 777-200ER, was shot down by a surface-to-air missile over eastern Ukraine with the loss of all 298 occupants.

"We've come to the stage where we can say we're going to prosecute," said Dutch chief prosecutor Fred Westerbeke at a 19 June briefing.

He says they will be prosecuted "for downing flight MH17", adding: "This is the start of the Dutch criminal proceedings."

International arrest warrants will be sent out today for the first four suspects: Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinskiy, Oleg Pulatov of and Leonid Kharchenko.

Three of the individuals are Russian – formerly with the federal security service or military intelligence – and the fourth is a Ukrainian combat unit leader.

Girkin was formerly appointed as a so-called minister of defence for the Donetsk region in Ukraine, and the four formed a "chain" linking the self-proclaimed Donetsk people's republic with Russia.

"It was through this chain the suspects were able to get heavy military equipment from Russia to the battlefield in eastern Ukraine," says the inquiry, including the Buk missile launcher used against MH17.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine at the time, says Westerbeke, turned a war zone into a crime scene.

"This made finding the perpetrators complicated," he states, adding that the investigators have had to deal with theories often based on mistrust, assumptions and "deliberately-presented untruths".

The number of people under suspicion has been reduced over the five years since the attack, but the joint investigators is renewing a call for witnesses.

Westerbeke also stresses: "The courtroom is the venue where we have to present our case."

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