MH17 case: Key witness Tsemakh becomes suspect
22:55, 11 September 2019
Tsemakh’s extradition to Russia has hurt the relatives of those killed in the crash.
Dutch investigators probing into the downing of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in July 2014 have changed the status of a key witness, Volodymyr Tsemakh, to a suspect. This was reported by Deutsche Welle’s Russian-language service on September 11, citing Member of the European Parliament from the Netherlands Kati Piri.
According to her, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) and a Dutch prosecutor made public a letter stating that Tsemakh is considered as a suspect in connection with recent information that appeared this summer. Piri also said that the extradition of Tsemakh to Russia had hurt the relatives of those killed in the crash.
“From an international point of view, Ukraine has obligations foreseeing cooperation in attempts to find those responsible for the downed aircraft. And, having handed one of the suspects over to Moscow, Ukraine did not keep its promise,” DW quoted Piri as saying. Now JIT investigators have virtually no chance of interrogating Tsemakh, she said.
“It is clear that we can ask Russia to provide him for interrogation. But we are not so naïve. If Moscow wanted him to be available for questioning, it would not have stressed the need for his swap. Therefore, I am afraid Tsemakh will never again appear in court as a witness,” the MEP said.
As UNIAN reported earlier, Ukraine’s spec-ops forces managed to detain Tsemakh, who is a citizen of Ukraine, in the Russia-occupied town of Snizhne in late June 2019. He was reportedly a commander of an anti-aircraft unit in occupied Donbas back in 2014 and is suspected by Ukrainian law enforcement agencies of involvement in the downing of flight MH17 over Donbas in July 2014.
He is also suspected of involvement in a terrorist attack, which killed four Ukrainian soldiers. In late August, Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins suggested that Tsemakh was on a list of detainees prepared for a major Ukraine-Russia prisoner swap. On September 5, Kyiv’s Court of Appeals ruled to release Tsemakh on personal recognizance. Under a court ruling, he was supposed not to leave his place of permanent residence in Russia-occupied Donbas.
On September 7, Tsemakh was transferred to Russia as part of the prisoner swap, as a result of which 24 Ukrainian sailors and 11 Ukrainian political prisoners returned home. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and SBU Chief Ivan Bakanov said Tsemakh had been interrogated by Dutch investigators before the prisoner exchange took place.
(C) Unian 2019