Ukraine court releases MH17 'key suspect' pending trial

Ukraine court releases MH17 'key suspect' pending trial

Ukraine court releases MH17 'key suspect' pending trial

President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that a major prisoner exchange between Russian Federation and Ukraine was close, after a court in Kiev freed on bail a man suspected of involvement in the downing of a Malaysia Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine in 2014.

"While we understand the context within which such negotiations are taking place and the diplomatic efforts by the Ukrainian authorities to this end, Mr. Tsemakh is a suspect in the criminal investigation related to the downing of flight MH17 and his availability and testimony before the Joint Investigation Team is thus of the utmost importance for an effective prosecution by the countries involved", MEPs said.

A court in Ukraine released on bail from pre-trial detention a man suspected of involvement in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014 that killed 298 people, majority Dutch citizens.

Speaking in the eastern Russian city of Vladivostok on September 5, Putin said an agreement on a prisoner exchange "is near".

This week, 40 European politicians wrote to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy with the same request, according to European Parliament member Kati Piri.

Several high-profile Ukrainian prisoners are to be released from Russian jails under the swap, but the process had stalled amid reports that some Ukrainians have already been moved to Moscow from their prisons.

Ukraine is hoping to secure the release of dozens of prisoners, including 24 sailors who were detained by Russian Federation in the Kerch Strait previous year.

The investigators said on Tuesday that they wanted Tsemakh to stay in Ukraine to be questioned.

The downing of MH17 in 2014 killed 298 people - including 38 Australians.

Mr Tsemakh reportedly commanded anti-aircraft defences in the town of Snizhne when a Buk missile fired from the area brought down MH17 in July 2014, killing 298, including 10 Britons.

Among others who could be going home is a Russian journalist who was released by a Kyiv court on parole last week, and a handful of Ukrainian prisoners, including film director Oleg Sentsov, who have recently been taken from their Russian prison colonies to a temporary facility in Moscow.

Tsemakh's release provoked criticism in Ukraine, with some predicting there would be consequences for the attempts by Ukraine's new president to build relations with the European Union.

Conflict between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed forces has killed an estimated 13,000 people in eastern Ukraine since 2014.

That would put him out of the reach of worldwide investigators, as Russian Federation doesn't typically extradite its citizens.

Investigators announced in June that three Russians and one Ukrainian had been charged with murder.

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