Relatives of the MH17 victims blinked away tears as guilty verdicts were read out in a Dutch court on Thursday.
Three men were sentenced to life in prison for murdering all 298 people on board the Malaysia Airlines flight, which was brought down over Ukraine in 2014 with a Russian-supplied missile. A fourth man was acquitted.
Relatives express satisfaction
Piet Ploeg, President of the MH17 Air Disaster Foundation said he found it a “well-balanced sentence.”
“I think, it shows a lot about the evolvement of the Russian state,” he said. “You’re also going to see that it’s balanced because one of the suspects got an acquittal and the others got the highest possible punishment. It was a fair trial. It was a well-balanced and well-considered verdict. We wanted to get justice, we got justice.”
Relief after years of waiting
Relatives travelled from around the world for the end of the two-and-a-half-year trial.
Some couldn’t hold back their relief after years of waiting for justice, including Ria van der Steen, whose father and stepmother died in the plane.
“I’m really, really, very happy. I was driving over here this morning and I felt I already knew,” explained Ria. “I had that good feeling all week that they would be sentenced guilty, so better than that doesn’t exist at this moment!”
Moscow calls verdict scandalous
Moscow has slammed the verdict as “scandalous”, saying it was politically motivated. From the start, Russia has denied having any involvement in the crash.
However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised it as “important”.
None of the suspects was at the high-security court after Russia refused to extradite them.
The Boeing was shot down seven years ago over eastern Ukraine, which was in the midst of a separatist conflict.