Families of MH17 Victims Stage Protest Ahead of Trial

Relatives of the victims of the MH17 plane crash set up 298 empty chairs outside the Russian embassy in the Netherlands, a day before four individuals will stand trial at the Hague over their alleged involvement in the downing of the passenger jet.The Malaysian air flight crashed over territory in Ukraine held by pro-Russia separatists in July of 2014.  Russia has denied accusations of involvment, but relatives of the deceased are calling on Moscow to participate in the investigation into the crash which killed all 298 people on board.The silent protest was staged a day before three Russians and a Ukrainian are to be tried at the Hague for their alleged roles in the missile attack.  Rows of white folding chairs were arranged to resemble seats on the airplane. Among the victims of the 2014 crash were 196 Dutch citizens, 43 Malaysians, and 38 Australians. “We have the utmost confidence in the Dutch legal system to establish the truth and do justice in this case,” a statement released by the U.S. State Department Sunday said. “We again urge Russia to cease its continuing aggressive and destabilizing activities in Ukraine,” the statement went on.Tomorrow, the trial will begin for four individuals indicted for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight #MH17. We support the ongoing investigatory work of the Joint Investigation Team and urge #Russia to cease its continuing aggressive and destabilizing activities in #Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/26eGUqp1bs— Morgan Ortagus (@statedeptspox) March 8, 2020Two independent investigators determined that the plane was shot down by an anti-aircraft missile sent to Ukraine by Russia to help pro-Russia separatists fight Ukraine.  Russia has denied providing financial or military support for separatists in Ukraine.Russian citizens Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky, and Oleg Pulatov, and Ukrainian separatist Leonid Kharchenko are the four individuals going on trial Monday, though none are expected to appear in court. If they do not send legal representatives, the Dutch court is expected to order that their trial be conducted in absentia.