AMSTERDAM – A Dutch court will deliver its verdict on Thursday in the trial of four men with ties to Russia’s security services for shooting down a passenger plane over eastern Ukraine in 2014.
The disaster claimed all 298 civilian lives on board and came amid a conflict that heralded the Russian invasion of Ukraine that year.
This is a timeline of some of the key developments in the intertwined history of this conflict, the current war and attempts to seek justice for the victims of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 passenger plane.
Early 2014: After mass protests in Ukraine ousted the country’s pro-Moscow President Viktor F Yanukovych in February, the interim government expresses its desire to escape Russian influence and turn to the West. It eventually signs a trade deal with the European Union, seen as the first step towards EU membership.
The Kremlin responded by annexing the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. It is also stoking rebellions in two regions of eastern Ukraine known collectively as Donbass, where separatists are declaring the formation of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the neighboring Lugansk People’s Republic.
March 2014: The United States and European countries impose economic sanctions on Russian companies and wealthy businessmen with close ties to President Vladimir V Putin in response to the annexation of Crimea, hoping to prevent further Russian incursions into Ukraine.
July 2014: An anti-aircraft missile hits the Malaysia Airlines plane, known as MH17, at cruising altitude over eastern Ukraine en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. All on board are killed.
September 2016: A Dutch-led investigation concludes that the surface-to-air missile system used to shoot down the plane was trucked in from Russia at the request of Russian-backed separatists and returned to Russia that same night became.
March 2020: The trial of four men accused of involvement in the downing of the plane begins in an Amsterdam courthouse. Although the suspects are absent – presumably in Russia or a Russian-controlled area – the trial is being hailed as a victory for a group of international investigators who have meticulously followed the case despite the Russian blockade.
July 2020: The Dutch government is taking Russia to the European Court of Human Rights over the plane crash to provide support for individual cases brought before the European Court of Justice by relatives of the victims.
February 2022: Russia launches a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, with Mr Putin citing the plight of separatists in eastern Ukraine as a pretext for military action.
September 2022: In a swift offensive, Ukraine retakes much of the northeastern Kharkiv region and threatens to retake areas long held by the separatists, allowing Kyiv to capitalize on the momentum of the war.