Australian Investigator Praises 'Incredible' MH17 Families
Australia's top investigator in the MH17 crash probe hopes charges laid against four men over the tragedy may bring some comfort to the victims' families five years on.
Dutch prosecutors have charged Russians Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko with murder for their role in furnishing the Buk missile launcher that fired at the passenger plane on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 on board.
All four were officials in the pro-Russian Donetsk People's Republic. They will be tried -- likely in absentia -- in The Netherlands on March 9.
Chief Australian investigator Detective Superintendent David Nelson says the multinational Joint Investigation Team has worked hard to get to this point, and praised the victims' families for their patience.
Thirty-eight Australians died in the crash.
"My heart goes out to the next of kin ... the patience they've shown, and the trust they give and show in us is incredible," Nelson told AAP.
"You can only thank them for that. It has been five years and I would hope that this (charging the first suspects) would give some comfort to the next of kin that have been waiting for so long."
Dutch Chief Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said he's realistic that the four accused will not attend the trail.
However he said it was important to forge on gathering enough evidence to charge all the individuals involved in the tragedy.
In particular, the JIT wants to charge those who gave the order to shoot the missile, those who pulled the trigger, and the Russian officials who allowed the Buk missile launcher to be moved into the Ukraine.
"Five years ago a lot of people said you can start an investigation but you won't get much out of it," Westerbeke said.
"Few people believed we would follow four people and now we are making that step. But this is an important step to show friends and relatives what happened and how it happened."
Russia's Foreign Ministry said it regretted the findings of the MH17 crash investigation and called the murder charges against Russian suspects groundless.
Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne welcomed the announcement of charges and said the government remains committed to holding the perpetrators to account.
"This is a significant step in the Dutch prosecution towards justice and accountability for the victims of the downing and their loved ones," she said in a statement.
The wait for more answers about the identities of other suspects may not be long, with the possibility of additional charges being laid before the case dossier is handed to the courts by the end of the year.
Open source investigative website Bellingcat had already accused the four men charged over the tragedy and on Wednesday named an additional six suspects.
All are Russian-backed separatists of either Russian and Ukrainian nationality and were allegedly involved in the lead-up to the missile being fired and its aftermath.