MEPs urge Kiev not to extradite flight MH17 suspect to Moscow
Forty MEPs urged Ukraine’s president not to hand over a prisoner detained in Kiev to Russia on Wednesday so he can be questioned over the downing of flight MH17.
Former pro-Russian separatist Volodymyr Tsemakh is wanted for questioning ahead of a trial over the 2014 tragedy that is due to start in the Netherlands next year.
Russian and Ukrainian media have reported that Tsemakh’s case has held up a weeks-long prisoner exchange between Moscow and Kiev, with the Kremlin demanding his extradition.
“Mr Tsemakh is a key suspect” in the investigation of the MH17 case, the 40 MEPs wrote in a letter sent to President Volodymyr Zelensky, which was published on the website of Dutch MEP Kati Piri.
“His availability and testimony before the Joint Investigation Team is thus of the utmost importance for an effective prosecution by the countries involved,” MEPs said.
The Malaysia Airlines passenger plane travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down in 2014 over an area of armed conflict with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
All 298 people on board the flight were killed.
International investigators have determined that the MH17 aircraft was shot down by a Soviet-designed BUK missile from the 53rd Russian anti-aircraft brigade based in Kursk, south-west Russia.
“It’s a strange request from Russia to ask for the extradition of a Ukrainian citizen, which suggests that the Russian government wants to prevent this suspect from appearing in court,” Piri said on her website.
Dutch investigators had already said Tuesday that they wanted Tsemakh to stay in Ukraine to be questioned.
The Ukrainian secret service captured Tsemakh at his home in separatist-held eastern Ukraine in June, and he was then secretly transferred while unconscious to Kiev.
Tsemakh is accused by Ukrainian justice of “participation in a terrorist organisation”, an expression used by Kiev to describe the military activities of the separatists.
Led by the Netherlands, the international team of investigators announced in June that three Russians and one Ukrainian will tried for murder, which will likely be held in absentia.