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by John Helmer, Moscow 

One of the most prominent generals in the Russian Army is to be called to testify in the Dutch government’s trial of the shooting-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 when district court judge Hendrik Steenhuis rules next week on whether to accept or refuse his evidence as a  witness for the defence.

According to the request filed in court this week, the evidence is of the Ukrainian Army’s fingerprints on the BUK missile which Dutch prosecutors allege was the weapon used to destroy the aircraft on July 17, 2014, killing 298 passengers and crew.

Without proof of the weapon, the Dutch prosecution has no case against the four soldiers  — three Russians, one Ukrainian —  accused of deploying the missile and preparing the attack against the aircraft. If Ukrainian Army fingerprints are verified on the weapon when the crime was committed, the Dutch case, and the worldwide media campaign against Russia, collapse.

Major-General Igor Konashenkov (lead image), the spokesman for the Defence Ministry in Moscow,   has been called to testify. If Judge Steenhuis refuses to allow him,  in a ruling promised for July 3, the trial will cease to follow Dutch law, and become a Dutch Government propaganda show.  

No Dutch or international reporter has published the record of the request for a ruling on General Konashenkov’s testimony.  It was made on June 23 by Sabine ten Doesschate, the junior lawyer on the defence team representing Lieutenant-Colonel Oleg Pulatov, one of the four accused in the case. Two other Russian Army officers and one eastern Ukrainian have also been charged; they refuse to participate in the Dutch proceeding. Read more on the courtroom proceedings here.

Ten Doesschate’s presentation can be followed between Minute 28 and Minute 33 of the archived hearing videotape.

The Dutch government does not allow publication of the transcript of the proceedings available to the judges, prosecutors and lawyers in the case. An archive video record is preserved by Ruptly, a Berlin-based video news agency which is part of the Russian state broadcasting network. YouTube publishes the Ruptly archive of the MH17 trial with a warning against Russia.   

Ten Doesschate in court on June 23: “We imagine the prosecution know his name. We don’t know his name ourselves” (June 23, Min 31:15). Source: https://www.youtube.com/

Just hours after MH17 was attacked and crashed, the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) began publishing evidence it claimed to show that Russian soldiers had fired a BUK anti-aircraft missile at the civilian aircraft, after bringing the missile across the border from a base in Russia. The SBU allegations depend on video and other images, telephone call interceptions, and witnesses. No Ukrainian radar, US satellite, NATO electronic surveillance, or Dutch intelligence evidence has been presented by the prosecution to substantiate the SBU claims; read more.   

Two years ago, on May 24, 2018, Dutch prosecutors announced they had discovered two fragments of the BUK missile which they said had been fired at MH17.   The parts, displayed for the press to record, were from the casing and the venturi, the exhaust nozzle of the rocket.  

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/

It took four months for the Russian Defence Ministry to investigate the fingerprints on the missile fragments; that’s to say, the serial numbers stamped on the two parts. They were published at a briefing at the Defence Ministry on September 17, 2018.   Tracing the missile part numbers through date of their manufacture, shipment, and deployment led to the precise identification of the BUK missile which the Dutch had identified as the weapon of the crime. This investigation produced records showing the BUK missile had been delivered by rail on December 29, 1986, to military unit 20152 of the Ukrainian Army, and never sent back to Russia.

The weapon of the crime, according to the Dutch prosecution, turned out to be evidence according to the Russian military records,  that the Ukrainian Army had fired on MH17.   

Source: https://www.youtube.com/

The significance of the evidence was so great that it was presented to the press by two high-ranking Russian Army generals. For worldwide comprehension, their presentation was given with an English language voice-over. They were Lieutenant General Nikolai Parshin and Major General Igor Konashenkov; Parshin was head of the Ministry’s Missile and Artillery Directorate; Konashenkov, the chief spokesman of the Ministry. A detailed report was published here and again here.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/

This week,  the two Dutch lawyers officially representing Pulatov have presented the evidence from the prosecution case file to reveal there is no radar or satellite evidence, no NATO electronic signals, and no Dutch military intelligence to confirm that the alleged weapon was fired under the command of the four defendants. The remaining evidence on which the prosecution’s case depends comes from Dutch government expert projections and modelling of launch site, soil combustion traces, missile range, trajectory, and shrapnel spray from detonation of the missile warhead. This is not evidence of the crimes alleged in the indictment. The evidence for those, the prosecution told the court last week, comes entirely from the SBU.   

Revealed for the first time in open court this week by the defence lawyers is that a large number of witnesses on whose testimony the prosecutors depend were in prison, under arrest by the SBU.   Also revealed for the first time this week is the prosecution’s record that before the bodies of the passengers and crew were sent to The Netherlands for post-mortems, and then to Australia where additional autopsies were conducted,  the SBU did tests at a mortuary in Kharkov on at least 27 bodies, possibly as many as 37. They represent one in ten of the victims counted from the flight manifest; they are a much larger proportion of the crew in the cockpit, where metal fragment impact was greatest, though the Dutch and Australian pathologists have not found in the bodies of the passengers the type of shrapnel characteristic of BUK warheads.

In her presentation to the court on Tuesday, ten Doesschate reported that “when asked Ukraine said they had no record of receiving this missile” (Min 29:08). She also reported the prosecution file claimed there are “a number of reasons to question the correctness of the Russian paperwork” (Min 29:26). The lawyer pointed out there has been no Dutch investigation of these claims; no Russian official was ever asked to respond. Instead, the Dutch came to the conclusion that “because the Russian Federation is not deemed to be acting in good faith” (Min 30:17), there would be no further investigation.

This was a plain conflict of evidence, Russian evidence versus Ukrainian evidence, which went to the heart of the prosecution case. Ten Doesschate didn’t quite say so. Instead: “we see that the prosecution takes the view that the missile records fail to confirm or disprove whether the BUK missile which the JIT [Joint Investigation Team] believes downed the MH17 was available to the Ukrainian military in July 2014” (Min 30:40).

“We think the prosecution’s view that the Russian documents may be false actually does call for investigation” (Min 30:57).

The lawyer then told Judge Steenhuis and his two associate judges that they are formally requested to rule on calling the Russian Defence Ministry to testify.

Left to right, the three judges Dagmar Koster; Hendrik Steenhuis; Heleen Kerstens-Fockens. Steenhuis, who is presiding, was a tax inspector for 26 years before he became a district judge. For details of their backgrounds, read this.

“We therefore would like to hear the following witness – the Russian Defence Ministry spokesman who is familiar with the missile records and made them available to the JIT. We imagine the Prosecution know his name. We don’t know his name ourselves. The Prosecution will know his name because they got the documents from the JIT. And perhaps this is a way of getting hold of the person’s name…The defence wishes to ask this witness about the positions of the Prosecution that the documents are false.   The defence would like to ask the witness and see what he says. The outcome of this investigation can be important in assessing the merits and plausibility of the missile records” (Min 31:56).

Although the Dutch prosecutors have repeatedly accused the chain of command of the Russian Army, running upwards from the four defendants in eastern Ukraine to headquarters in Moscow and the Kremlin, this is the first time the Dutch court will be obliged to rule on taking the testimony of senior Russian officers.

It is unclear why ten Doesschate claimed she and her Dutch colleagues do not know Konashenkov’s name. It is certain from her presentation and from the Defence Ministry briefing included in the prosecution’s case file which the lawyer referred to, that it was the September 18, 2018, presentation by Parshin and Konashenkov that ten Doesschate is familiar with.  It is therefore impossible for ten Doesschate not to have seen Konashenkov’s name displayed in large Cyrillic letters on his tunic. It is equally impossible for the Russian lawyers and interpreters assisting the Dutch not to be able to read the name and confirm Konashenkov’s identity, rank,  and role at the Defence Ministry.

Once ten Doesschate had the Roman-letter spelling of Konashenkov’s name, her swift check of Google, Facebook and the Defence Ministry’s website would have confirmed the details the lawyer told the court she doesn’t know.  

Source: http://eng.mil.ru/en/index.htm 

Why ten Doesschate was pretending to ignorance or lying to the court on the point as central to the trial as this one is inexplicable. Ten Doesschate refuses to explain herself.

The lawyer’s evasion is not an option open to Judge Steenhuis. If on July 3 he refuses to allow Konashenkov to testify, he confirms the trial is a sham. If Steenhuis agrees to Konashenkov’s testimony, the prosecution’s case will be left with a weapon they cannot prove beyond reasonable doubt to have been fired by Russians, not by the Ukrainian Army.

In law, if not in Dutch politics, this prosecution ends on July 3.

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