THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The chairman of a foundation that represents families of people killed when a passenger jet was shot down over eastern Ukraine in 2014 told a Dutch court Monday of his grief at losing his brother — no trace of whom was ever found.
He also asked judges in the mass murder trial of three Russians and a Ukrainian charged for their alleged role in downing Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 to spell out in clear terms in their final verdict — expected next year — about Russia’s role in the downing of the plane. Russia denies any involvement.
Piet Ploeg, chairman of the MH17 Disaster Foundation that was established after the July 17, 2014, downing of the Boeing 777, lost his brother Alex along with Alex’s wife, Edith, and their son Robert as they flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on their way to a vacation in Bali.
He was one of the last of scores of relatives to tell judges about his loss as part of the murder trial of four suspects, none of whom have been arrested and sent to the Netherlands to face justice.
Under Dutch law, relatives are allowed to make a victim impact statements to the court without being asked questions. Starting in September, dozens have done so, some speaking via live video links from other countries.
Their statements have given the court a glimpse of the emotional anguish of relatives since a Buk missile blew the jet out of the sky above conflict-torn eastern Ukraine. All 298 passengers and crew were killed.
While traces of Ploeg’s sister-in-law and nephew were found at the crash site and sent back to the Netherlands for formal identification, no part of his brother was ever recovered.
“I find it difficult to accept that my brother’s mortal remains have disappeared or are somewhere far away and that I will never be able to say farewell to what remains of my brother,” Ploeg told the court.
Prosecutors say the plane was shattered in mid-air when it was hit by a Buk missile system trucked into Ukraine from a Russian military base.
“I invite your court to talk explicitly about this in your verdict so that we can know — so the whole world can know — what caused our relatives’ pointless deaths and what role the Russian Federation played in downing MH17,” Ploeg said.
He told judges he sums up Russia’s stance in the years since the plane was shot down in a single word: “Despicable.”
“Years of disinformation, alternative theories, denials, distortions, and refusal to face responsibility, noncooperation in the investigation and the criminal trial. That is the Russian Federation,” he said.