The Netherlands was able to interrogate the Ukrainian MH17 suspect Volodymyr Tsemach before he was handed over to Russia. Nevertheless, the government is deeply regretting its departure to Russia, says Foreign Minister Stef Blok. Tsemach was part of a prison exchange between Ukraine and Russia on Saturday.

The two countries have each handed over 35 prisoners to the neighboring country. The plane with Ukrainian prisoners departed from Moscow and the Russian plane from Kiev.

The Netherlands has consulted with Ukraine "several times and at the highest level" to prevent Tsemach from becoming part of the prisoner exchange with Russia, Blok writes to the Lower House.

The Public Prosecution Service had been urging for some time that the Ukrainian separatist should remain available for investigating the downing of MH17. But the Netherlands went a step further when it became clear in mid-August that Ukraine might transfer Tsemach to Russia.

The man was arrested by Ukrainian soldiers at the end of June. According to some sources, he was at the time commander of the air defense near the place of Snizhne, from where the rifle rocket was fired with which flight MH17 was shot down. According to the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), Tsemach may know more about bringing down MH17.

A 2015 video interview would also reveal Tsemach's possible involvement in transporting the Buk launch installation to Russia. That is how the word 'buk' was squeaked away.

European requests not to extradite suspects

In addition to the Dutch government, forty European politicians have previously asked Ukraine not to extradite Tsemach to Russia. The Dutch OM abstained from commenting on the prison exchange on Saturday afternoon.

The trial of four MH17 suspects will start next March. Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov and Leonid Kharchenko are held responsible for, among other things, transporting the rocket.

On July 17, 2014, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over Eastern Ukraine. In addition, all 298 passengers were killed. The majority of the victims were Dutch.


MH17 suspect Tsemach: "I have hidden that stink."

Ukrainian sailors and journalist transferred

Russia has put 24 Ukrainian crew members of a ship on the plane to Kiev, their lawyer says. They were arrested by Russia in November. According to the Russians, their ship had entered the Russian waters illegally at the Kerch Strait.

According to the lawyer of the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, he is also transferred by Russia. The Russian police arrested Sentsov in 2014 after criticizing the embedding of the Ukrainian peninsula by the Russians. He was sentenced to twenty years in prison after being convicted of terrorism.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and his Russian colleague Vladimir Putin discussed the prisoner exchange earlier this year. In this way they try to improve the bond between the two countries.


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