The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will today announce whether it will hear a Dutch case against Russia over the downing of Flight MH17. In 2014, a Malaysian Airlines passenger flight was shot at while flying over the east of Ukraine, shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin began his offensive in the Donbas region. All 283 passengers aboard were killed when the plane was hit by a Russian-made missile, fired by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.
The Dutch government says that Russian disinformation about the Kremlin’s involvement amounts to a violation of the relatives’ human rights. Russia has consistently denied all allegations.
Investigators have for years attempted to find the true culprit of the crime, the roads often leading directly to Moscow.
Florence De Changy, a foreign correspondent for the French publication Le Monde threw her hat into the ring in with her 2021 investigative book, The Disappearing Act: The Impossible Case of MH370.
While the disaster was separate from Flight MH17, Ms De Changy suggests that the two were linked, claiming that Putin himself may have been personally responsible to achieve his political ambitions.
Flight MH17 was shot down while flying over eastern Ukraine in 2014 (Image: GETTY)
Two Russians and a Ukrainian were given life sentences for murder in absentia last year (Image: GETTY)
Among these goals were to get “revenge” on the US, and to improve his relationship with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping.
Both Russia and China, Ms De Changy says, suspect the US of shooting down Flight MH370 — which disappeared mid-flight — in March 2014 while it was flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, months before the shooting of Flight MH17.
Aboard MH370 were 227 passengers and 12 crew of whom 153 were Chinese citizens, all presumed dead.
Linking the two incidents, Ms De Changy writes about a source who appears to allege Putin’s hand in the Flight MH17 disaster. The source says that Putin, speaking to Xi after Flight MH370, said: “What happened is not acceptable. Leave it to me”.
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Investigators assembled the wreckage of MH17 at an airbase in the Netherlands (Image: GETTY)
Ms De Changy argues that downing MH17 gave the Russian President a chance to send a message to Washington: “You mess with us, and we’ll mess with you.”
In an interview with The Sun, she said: “What is obvious is that the likelihood of this double accident is basically beyond statistics.
“To have two planes of the same model and the same company destroyed in four months should not be treated as just bad luck.”
She continued: “I noticed that Xi and Putin were getting closer than ever during that period of time and they happened to have been physically together in Brazil when MH17 was downed. The day before, they talked of taking their relationship to a new ‘higher level’ and Putin mentions ‘striking the iron while it’s hot’.
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The site where Flight MH17 landed after being hit by land-based missiles (Image: GETTY)
Vladimir Putin has relied on China for exports after its invasion of Ukraine in 2022 (Image: GETTY)
“I also discussed this [theory] with people in that world [intelligence services] and to my great surprise, the more informed and high ranking they were, the less shocked they seemed about this hypothesis.
“In fact, one told me, the more outrageous the more likely it is to be true, in this kind of operation.”
Others have also made the link. Jeff Wise, a journalist, writing in his book, The Plane That Wasn’t There, argues that Russia may well have downed both Flight MH370 and MH17 in order to tell the West: “You can hurt us with sanctions, but don’t sleep too soundly at night.”
Despite the depth of reports, investigations, testimonies, and arguments, officials are currently no closer to determining the truth of the matter.
Questions still remain over what happened to the disappeared Flight MH370 (Image: GETTY)
This week, however, the Dutch government could advance efforts if they successfully win over the ECHR.
At this stage, the ECHR will only rule on whether the criteria of the case are met for it to deal with the application.
But even if the court does agree to hear the Dutch case, years could pass before a ruling is issued.
If in that eventuality the court rules that Russia is guilty, Moscow could be ordered to pay the victims’ relatives substantial sums.
The Dutch government will be hoping they win over the ECHR to take the case further (Image: GETTY)
Last November, two Russians and a Ukrainian were found guilty by a Dutch court at the Schiphol Judicial Complex of murder in absentia for their part in the MH17 disaster.
Their whereabouts are unknown, but multiple reports suggest they currently reside in Russia.
It was concluded that the missile had been fired deliberately in order to bring down a plane, regardless of whether those involved believed it was a military vehicle rather than a civilian.
Moscow has several times denied any involvement in the downing of MH17, describing the Dutch verdict as scandalous and political point-scoring.
The Disappearing Act: The Impossible Case of MH370 by Florence De Changy, published by Mudlark, is available here.