Ukraine’s Zelenskiy blamed for the release of key MH17 suspect

File photo. The toys, flowers and candles are seen in front of the Dutch embassy in commemoration of the MH17 victims in Kyiv, Ukraine, 17 July 2018. [Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA/EFE]

A Ukrainian court on Thursday (5 September) released on bail a key suspect in the downing of a Malaysia Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine in 2014 that killed 298 people. The move raised many questions.

A judge said that Volodymyr Tsemakh, whom Ukraine’s security service has identified as a former commander of Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, should be released from custody immediately, pending further investigations.

Tsemakh is one of the people who could be handed over to Russia in a widely anticipated prisoner exchange.

Last week, Dutch prosecutors urged the authorities in Ukraine not to allow Tsemakh to travel to Russia, fearing this could jeopardize its investigation into Flight MH17, which was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Downed Malaysian plane: ‘War has gone beyond Ukraine’

War has gone beyond the territory of Ukraine, the country’s President Petro Poroshenko has stated following the shocking news that the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was brought down yesterday (17 July) over the territory of Eastern Ukraine close to the Russian border.

This week, 40 European politicians wrote to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy with the same request, according to European Parliament member Kati Piri. She called the release a “very disappointing move” by the country’s new President Volodymyr Zelenskyi.

Major prisoner exchange

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that talks on a prisoner exchange were being finalised and that the swap could involve a large number of people. He said it could mark a step towards normalizing relations between the two countries.

The prisoner exchange is likely preparing the ground for another summit in the ‘Normandy format’ (Ukraine, Russia, France, Germany), to be hosted by France. French President Emmanuel Macron ambitions to help solve the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, and improve the EU’s relations with Russia.

France's Macron makes Russia a top diplomatic priority

President Emmanuel Macron placed great emphasis on Russia during his annual speech in front of French diplomats on Tuesday (27 August), telling ambassadors that “Europe would disappear” if it fails to rethink its strategy towards Russia. EURACTIV France reports.

A Dutch-led international investigation team has issued international arrest warrants for three Russians and a Ukrainian – not including Tsemakh – on suspicion of murder in connection with the downing of the airliner.

Flight MH17 was shot down on 17 July 2014, over territory held by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Fighting between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed forces in eastern Ukraine has killed 13,000 people in the past five years.

Dutch prosecutors have said the missile system that brought down the airliner came from a Russian anti-aircraft brigade. Russia has denied any involvement.

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