Lawyer: Coronavirus restrictions hamper MH17 defense case

A defense lawyer for one of the suspects in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine nearly six years ago says that coronavirus restrictions have seriously hampered efforts to prepare their case

She said that meant defense lawyers are not yet ready to make preliminary objections such as challenging the Dutch court's jurisdiction in the case.

Ten Doesschate spoke as the trial resumed for three Russians and a Ukrainian charged with involvement in shooting down the Boeing 777 that was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014.

Judges and prosecutors did not immediately respond to the defense claims, which could lead to long delays in the trial that began on March 9. Coronavirus social distancing measures were in place in the courtroom, with judges and prosecutors separated from one another by glass screens.

All 298 passengers and crew were killed when a Buk missile fired from territory controlled by pro-Moscow separatist rebels blew the Malaysian passenger jet out of the sky.

None of the suspects have been handed over to face justice and none were present in a courtroom near the Dutch airport from which the doomed flight took off. The trial is taking place in the Netherlands because nearly 200 of the victims were Dutch citizens.

Pulatov is the only defendant who has lawyers representing him in the trial, which is expected to last at least into next year. His Dutch attorneys say Pulatov insists he is innocent.

The three other suspects are Russians Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinskiy and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko. More suspects could face charges in the future as an international team of investigators continues its long-running probe.

Russia has consistently denied any involvement in the downing of the flight known as MH17 and has criticized the international investigation.