MH17 was downed over the Ukraine on July 17, 2014, while en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Now, the first criminal charges in the case. The BBC reports international arrest warrants have been issued for Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy, and Oleg Pulatov of Russia and Leonid Kharchenko of the Ukraine. ABC News describes them as "pro-Russian separatist commanders"; the Guardian offers more depth on their backgrounds, which are said to include service with Russia's FSB spy agency and the GRU, the country's military intelligence service. Girkin was reportedly commander of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), a self-proclaimed state in east Ukraine, when the plane was shot down. The Dutch-helmed Joint Investigation Team (JIT) says the men "formed a chain linking DNR with the Russian Federation."
The JIT isn't accusing the men of actually firing the Russian missile that struck the plane but believes they facilitated the missile's acquisition and transport to separatist-held eastern Ukraine. Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke says they are charged with "causing the crash of MH17, leading to the death of all the people on board ... and murdering 298 passengers," per CNN. The AP reports Russian and Ukrainian laws don't allow for extradition. A trial is scheduled to begin next year, and the Guardian reports the men could be tried in absentia. Westerbeke says that "in the short term we will ask Russia to hand the summons to the suspects who are in the Russian Federation" and will work with Russia to set up interviews with the men. Girkin on Wednesday addressed his alleged involvement, telling the AP it isn't so. "The insurgents did not shoot it down," he said. (Read more Malaysia Airlines MH17 stories.)