On September 5, 2019, judges of the Kiev Court of Appeal released Vladimir Tsemakh from custody, changing his measure of restraint to personal obligations. The event caused a huge public outcry: the main witness against Russia in the case of the disaster MH-17 was free. The former head of the “air defense” of the self-proclaimed “DPR” from Snezhnoye said in an interview that he knew the fate of the “Buk”, those rocket destroyed the Malaysian Boeing. Describing the events associated with the passenger liner МН17 crash, Tsemakh said: “I pulled this kid out. I hid this Buk. I’ll even show you where it started and where I took it”.
Obviously, if the ex-militant’s testimony can be attached to the official results of the investigation, this would erase all doubts about Russia’s involvement in the plane crash, which claimed hundreds of lives. But it’s worth looking at the turmoil around the doubtful person of Tsemakh from a slightly different angle. Some sources claim that Tsemakh was released from custody for an exchange for Ukrainian prisoners (although the militant himself is formally also a citizen of Ukraine, like Kirill Vyshinsky released a little bit earlier).
One conclusion: the dubious character, who suddenly received the status of “main witness” from journalists and various experts in the case of a Boeing shot down in the Donbas, is very necessary for Putin. If this is correct, then the desire to get the ex-head of the “DPR” air defense is indirect evidence of the Kremlin’s guilt in the crash of the passenger liner. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence against Russia without Tsemakh’s testimony.
A Joint investigation team concluded that the Boeing was attacked from the Buk Air defense system by pro-Russian militants. According to investigators, the installation itself fell into them from the territory of Russia and belonged to the 53rd Air Defense Brigade (military unit 32406 near Kursk, Russia). The experts studied the evidence and shots of amateur video from June 23-25, 2014, namely, photos and videos of the movement of columns of Russian military equipment on public roads near the western borders.
Documents confirming the direct participation of Russian troops in the events that led to the tragedy were also published. Few days ago, one of the investigators of the Bellingcat group, Hristo Grozev, commented on the release of Tsemakh as follows: “From the point of view of the evidence base, nothing will change much. The Joint investigation team has accumulated so much objective evidence that proves Russia’s involvement, and this will not change anything for the court. What everyone is losing is the higher legitimacy, optical objectivity of the trial. Now, there is not a single accused in court to be defended by a lawyer who would argue in favor of alternative versions.
Therefore, unfortunately, Russia and the Kremlin will always say that it was a unilateral judicial procedure. But the process itself will have enough legitimate evidence for the judge to impartially impose a sentence. ” About this Grozev said in a commentary to the Current Time.
The trial of the MH17 crash should begin on March 9, 2020. Evidence about the involvement of Russian special services and the top military-political leadership of the Russian Federation in this story is more than enough. In a number of this evidence there could also be evidence of Tsemakh, which was freed by a Kiev court. But if Putin will receive him, as a result of an exchange for Ukrainian political prisoners or prisoners of war, sailors, Tsemakh may face an unenviable fate. As the prosecutor said after the court hearing, the ex-militant may return to his place of residence to the territory of the “LPR” controlled by Russia. And there, as you know, anything can happen to such witnesses …
For several weeks Ukraine has been feverish due to conflicting information about the imminent exchange of Kremlin prisoners. The release of Tsemakh, Vyshinsky, Alexander Rakushin, suspected of working for the FSB, is associated precisely with preparations for the “exchange” process. But in this case, it is obvious that everything except the militant from Snezhnoye is just a crowd scene, and the main goal of the Kremlin is to get a “dangerous” witness for Russia in the MH17 case.
There is no doubt that the capture of Ukrainian sailors in the Kerch Strait in November 2018 was carried out with a strategic goal – to use captured Ukrainians in such tenders. Russia ignores the decision of the UN International Tribunal on the immediate release of prisoners of war of the Naval Forces of Ukraine, the appeals of many leaders of states, authoritative organizations.
It is clear that such captives are necessary for Putin to “vainly” manipulate human destinies to “clean up” evidence of his crimes on the territory of Ukraine. International moments are especially sensitive for the Russian national leader, such as the destruction of a passenger airliner in the sky over the Donbas.
The decision of the international court on Russia’s guilt in the MH 17 crash will be a tangible blow for the Kremlin, which will entail increased sanctions pressure and isolation of the Russian Federation at the international level. Therefore, Russia is frantically trying to “clean up” the supposedly real witness, using pre-prepared manipulation levers for this. In particular, 24 Ukrainian sailors captured for far-fetched reasons.
The reaction of the Netherlands
After the release of Tsemakh, many experts and politicians started talking about the fact that, having released Tsemakh under personal obligations, Ukraine allegedly put partners in the investigation of the plane crash from the Netherlands into an awkward situation. They themselves rather restrainedly commented on the decision of the Kiev court. So, the international Joint investigation team (JIT), which is investigating the MH17 case, said that the “DPR” militant Vladimir Tsemakh is “an interesting person for the investigation.”
“We would have liked to have speak to him and it’s going to be difficult now,” Brechtje van de Moosdijk, a spokeswoman for the Joint Investigation Team, told RFE/RL by telephone. “We would rather have him in Ukraine so we could speak to him.”
Commenting on the court’s decision, she added: “This is the decision of Ukraine, the decision of the Ukrainian court, so I can’t comment on it.”
The restrained reaction of the Dutch investigators may indicate that Ukraine and the international Joint investigation team could agree to release Tsemakh, since the official investigation has enough evidence of Russia’s involvement in the downing of the Boeing.
Section “Delta” of the “Information Resistance” group