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Silent chair protest in front of the Russian Embassy in The Hague
Image: DW/Maxim Drabok

MH17 relatives hold 'empty chair' protest

March 8, 2020

Protesters in The Hague lined up 298 chairs to symbolize each of the victims of the shot-down passenger jet. On Monday, four men are going on trial in absentia over their alleged involvement in the 2014 disaster.


The relatives of people killed when a missile shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014 held a silent protest, comprise of 298 white chairs outside the Russian Embassy in The Hague on Sunday.

The protest was held just one day before the start of the criminal proceedings. The chairs, which were positioned in rows like an airplane, symbolized the victims aboard the airliner, all of whom were killed that day.

Read moreFlight MH17 families seek answers as suspects face trial in absentia

The families stood in silence for two minutes after arranging the chairs and signs, including one that read, "Impunity = unacceptable! Someone knows what happened ... Justice for MH17."

The plane, which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in July 2014, was shot down by a Buk missile and fired from territory held by pro-Russia separatist rebels.

Read moreFlight MH17, five years on: What happens next?

Moscow refuses to cooperate

Russia has so far denied any responsibility for the disaster, and has said that the investigation into the crash, which has charged three Russians and one Ukrainian with the disaster, is prejudiced against Moscow.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused investigators of presuming Russia's guilt before the court hearing opens on Monday.

However, relatives have accused Russian authorities of seeking to hide the facts about exactly what happened.

"What we're doing here today, this is truly us making a silent statement to somebody who may have the answers," Lucas Shansman, whose nephew Quinn perished in the disaster, told AP.

The four suspects include Russians Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy and Olef Pulatov, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko. None are expected to attend the start of the trial on Monday, which is set to be held near Schiphol, the Amsterdam airport from which the flight took off.

"This is an opportunity for the plain, unvarnished truth to come out in the court process," Jon O'Brien, whose son was among the victims, told AP. "The really important thing is that the truth comes out, because the truth has been in short supply over the last five and a half years," he said.

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lc/mm (AP, dpa)

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