Jerry Skinner: “Russia has done everything to block the investigation of the MH17”
The Ukrainian Week talked with an attorney representing the families of those killed in the disaster of the Malaysian MN17 flight in a lawsuit against the Russian Federation in the European Court of Human Rights, on the evidence in this case, and on the possible consequences of the verdict for Russia
Which evidences or witness were presented by Ukrainian side, from which sources and which of them were accepted by court?
– The people of Ukraine have provided some of the best evidence on the merits in this case and in the DSB and JIT investigations. The probative evidence that shows that Russia attacked MH17 with a Buk M1, came from Luhansk, Donetsk, Makiivka, Zugres and Snizne. It was in the form of pictures, videos, intercepted telecommunications and live witnesses that saw the flatbed and TELAR, the smoke trail and the crash. This put the criminals at the scene of the crime. It identified the murder weapon as coming from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade at Kursk. The Ukrainian people identified the numbers, carriage markings and road damage of the TELAR launch unit. They confirmed that the TELAR returned to Russia on 18 July, missing one missile. The Ukrainian government confirmed all of this for the JIT investigation. All of this and much more has been filed and accepted into the families ECHR case.
On your opinion – what more need to be done from Ukrainian side? From Ukrainian government? From Ukrainian civil organisations and activists?
– I have been in Kyiv recently. Obviously MH17 is a small part of the Russian problem in Eastern Ukraine. But, Ukraine could and should do more in terms of legal remedies. There are few Courts that will allow you to try to punish a nation state for this type of atrocity. There are diplomatic challenges, economic sanctions and of course military options. I do not advocate further military action. Ukraine has done what was necessary to defend their people and their freedom. But the legal remedies are tools which should all be used to the greatest extent possible. Ukraine pursued Russia in the ICJ. An academic option as Russia has blocked other UN efforts with their security counsel veto. But in the ECHR where our case is filed, Ukraine should attack Russia as strongly as possible. Ukraine has filed 4 actions in the ECHR. One was preliminarily dismissed. 3 are limited in scope to unique issues related small groups. I have offered to file an all encompassing application for a crippling amount of damages for taking land, violating sovereignty, taking industries, moving the population, creating 2 million refugees, destroying infrastructure, and killing more than 20,000 Ukrainian civilians. I have contacted the Foreign Ministry Legal Team to make this offer, so far they are not interested in talking. I still want to talk. Against a foe that takes what they want, you use all that you have.
Which Russian military personnel, connected to attack on MH17, identified according to materials?
– What is known about named Russian players in the Donbas conflict and specifically the MH17 plot and shoot down, is that the Russian involved are numerous, but many more are known to the JIT investigators than have been publicly discussed. The frequent communicators both with each other and Moscow are the Russian military men with call signs. There is Orion, Delfin and Khmury. They are Oleg Ivannikov, Nicholai Fedorovich Tkachev and Sergei Nicolaevich Dubinsky. There is much discussion in intercepted telecommunications about the Buk and the general plan for the take over in the Donbas.Of course there aremany news stories about the local separatist leaders, who were actually Russians. They all discuss the role of Igor “Strelkov”-Girkin and Vladislav Surkov. Russia refused to acknowledge the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine at the time of the MH17 attack. But in hindsight officers were plentiful. What the JIT knows about the TELAR crew is not known. However, the names of the crew are pivotal to identifying other interests who may have contributed to the attack plan.
Regarding Russian side – do they had any proposals (open or covert) to make any "deal" to stop the investigation?
– The Russian Federation, by the Ministry of Defense, the Russian Army, the Foreign Ministry, private concerns such as Almaz Antey, obstructed, delayed, failed to cooperate, created evidence and "lost" evidence for both the DSB Aircrash Investigation and the JIT Criminal Investigation. Russia has not contributed the ECHR case. It depends on your point of view. Russia has done everything to block the investigation. Or, Russia has done nothing. No proposed deals. Just nothing.
Do some of the Russian authorities tried to contact you to have some kind of deal? Or try to reach the families via your help?
– I have invited contact with the Russian government. If there are interested authorities that read this, I still invite contact and discussion. However, I have not heard anything by direct or indirect means. I am unaware of families receiving any inquiries. But it would not surprise me.
Were there any reviewing or checking for all (often conspiracy-like) versions of events, presented by Russian side? (Like Ukrainian jet, Ukrainian anti-aircraft complex, Spanish aircontroller, CIA plot)?
– Yes, Russia has created a lot of evidence. But none of it is credible or even well done. The photo of the Ukrainian Sukhoi, that was not Ukrainian, the Malaysian passenger jet which had the wrong livery or paint job, the launch complex in Ukraine that photo filter analysis showed was two merged pictures, two photos the "two Buks and the Cloud photo both with many added elements, the bogus Almaz Antey launch site study with a location that makes no difference and finally the lost and found raw primary and secondary radar data that was produced in a format that no one could read. The Russians have promoted evidence that has been grossly manipulated. They ignore and discount clear simple evidence which demonstrates their culpability
What is current position of Russian side in this case? On which evidences it is based on?
– Russia has taken no position on the ECHR case. We know of no evidence they have filed with the ECHR.For now, The Russian Federation is the Defendant. Individual Russians may be witnesses in the JIT Criminal case or in our claim in the ECHR. We will not know until the cases are actually in Court.
What is current position of MH17 families side in this case? On which evidences it is based on?
– 291 family members have filed applications with the ECHR. I would like to see all of the families follow up. We started with 33. The others finally recognized that Russia was too strong to attempt to hold accountable without large numbers. The families remaining in Australia and Malaysia need to join in. Nothing prevents them from doing so, though not all will agree with what we are doing. However, there are many tolls in this battle for truth. Continue to push on your local political leaders. Call for diplomatic action. Do not let action for accountability die.
What are current perspectives for families? What are next steps for them in that case?
– The families still weep for the 80 lost children, every night. The fathers who lost precious daughters and sons still long for grandchildren they will never hold. Husbands and wives who lost mates, face more days alone. None of this is justified by the dreams of a state to recover past glory. Novorossiya is a lost dream paid for by innocents. MH17 was a nightmare at 30,000 feet paid for by the same victims who never heard about “Novorossiya”. Here is perspective, one of the families at the last anniversary of the attack stated, " you just cannot do this to people." That is right isn't it Mr. Putin? The families, as many as can be, need to be very active. Hold frequent demonstrations in front of Russian embassies and consulates. Contact their own governments about being aggressive with Russia. The Dutch are doing this. I wish the Malaysians would. You really need the Australian to be active. Keep it in the news. Write to Mr. Putin. What has happened in Ukraine is a tragedy of the greatest power. Russia denies it with dis-information. If I were leading the family groups I would form NGO's, fund raise and publish, promote, post on billboards and by any means possible tell the truth. Everyday the truth. Russia should not be able to look beyond it’s borders with a reminder of what happened. For every one of the 80 children on the plane, for everyone of the children in the Donbas which is homeless or orphaned, for every family that is in pieces, tell the Russians truth every day.
When we can expect final verdict?
I am hopeful for resolution to begin in the last half of 2019 or the first part of 2020.
On your opinion – are there any chances, that Russia will agree to execute the verdict? Which kind of punishment there would be?
– Yes. Mr. Putin and Russia may never say, "we did it". But, they may have to deal with the problems which the families pursuit has caused them. An appropriate response, with large compensation for the families will give those families more closure than the apartment bomb victims, the Moscow theater families or the" Mothers of Beslan" ever got. As a great champion of fighting overwhelming odds once said "never, never, never give up. For right now exemplary damages to punish Russia for atrocitiescompensation is not needed. Punishment is needed.мThe JIT will go forward with the investigation and the criminal trial. Hopefully, Russia will produce the individuals involved for criminal trials in the Netherlands. The Dutch are tough they will pursue it. But it is an unavoidable, sad fact, what the families all want is to have their loved ones back. That is never happening. So my final suggestion is, take all the damages you can get, put the actual actors from Russia in jail. But do not forget the paragraph above. If a group can organize and keep the spirit of their loved ones alive by telling the true story, by promoting it, by publicizing it, do it. Keep it in Russia's face, it will stay with them as long as Mr. Putin fails to accept responsibility.
Jerome L. Skinner. Studied at Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law. He graduated in 1979. After passing the bar exam, he was admitted to legal practice in 1979. Jerome L. Skinner is an attorney providing legal services covering Aviation and Aerospace and Personal Injury. He has successfully advocated for families victimized by almost every major U.S. airline disaster since 1989, including the negotiations that resulted in the State of Libya paying a $2.7 billion dollar settlement to the survivors of those killed by the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Founder and President of Romanian Handicapped Ministries. Since 2016– represents relatives of MH17 victims in the European Court of Human Rights.
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