Russia 'www.dailymail.co.uk - Will Stewart For Mailonline
Russia is seeking to 'isolate and liquidate' key witnesses to the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines MH17 with the loss of 298 people, it has been claimed.
The key figure of Colonel Vasily Geranin was last month secretly taken into custody in an operation suspected of being run by Vladimir Putin's FSB security service, according to a voluntary Ukrainian group probing the crash.
Geranin is seen as a 'key witness' and 'possible accomplice' into the downing of the place flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, say open source intelligence investigation agency InformNapalm.
The allegation comes ahead of the third anniversary of the Boeing 777's destruction on 17 July 2014, and as a decision is being made on establishing a tribunal to formally investigate the horror and establish guilt for the deaths of passengers and crew.
One thing that has been settled is that the trials will be held in the Netherlands after all the countries involved agreed it would be the best way forward.
Colonel Vasily Geranin (on the right) next to Igor Girkin (on the left) in a 14-year-old picture
An investigation has uncovered photos of a Russian military engineer posing with the Buk missile launcher believed to have been used to shoot down MH17
The Malaysian Airlines passenger jet from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed down in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 on board in July 2014
Suspects arrested for shooting down MH17 will be tried within the Dutch legal system
The trials of any suspects arrested in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over war-torn eastern Ukraine will be held in the Netherlands, Dutch officials announced Wednesday.
A joint international investigation has determined that the Boeing 777 jet was hit by a Russian-made BUK missile fired from rebel-held territory, but a separate criminal probe has yet to arrest any suspects.
Now the countries leading the joint investigation team (JIT) - Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine - have agreed that any trials will be carried out within the Dutch legal system.
The countries 'decided that the suspects should be prosecuted in the Netherlands, a process that will be rooted in ongoing international cooperation and support,' Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said in a statement.
'This cooperation is vital, given the complexity of this case,' he added, noting that eastern Ukraine was a conflict zone, 'the scene of heavy fighting which is still difficult to access.'
His voice is alleged to be heard on an 'incriminating' intercepted mobile call with rebel leader Igor Bezler in the immediate aftermath of the plane's downing by a Russian-supplied Buk missile complex in pro-Moscow rebel-held eastern Ukraine.
The call is seen as evidence that Russian-sponsored rebels were behind the deadly strike on MH17.
An investigation has uncovered photos of a Russian military engineer posing with the Buk missile launcher believed to have been used to shoot down plane from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur which crashed down in eastern Ukraine.
The SBU intelligence agency in Kiev alleges that Geranin - a high ranking Russian GRU military intelligence officer - 'personally supervised' Bezler.
Geranin has not given his version of events and is now in custody, so putting him out of reach of international efforts to probe the crash.
He was allegedly detained in Russia for possessing illegal munitions, including parts of a grenade launcher, and retrospectively fired from the GRU.
But the group allege this is part of an FSB 'special operation' related to the MH17 attack, reported Ukrainian news source Unian.
Reports in a Moscow news outlet about his detention have been removed, it is claimed.
'The efforts of the special services of the Russian Federation to isolate and liquidate witnesses of the terrorist act against the passengers of MH17 indicate (Moscow) is trying its best to obstruct the investigation process,' claimed the voluntary group.
Bellingcat says the photo of the Buk 332 can be linked to the vehicle yard of Russia's 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade because it shows a pink coloured Krug missile container seen in a later 2014 photo (above) uploaded by a cadet. This photo, the group says, was geotagged at the yard in Marshala Zhukova, near Kursk in Russia
The mechanic was also pictured inside the cabin of an S-300 9A83 missile launcher
Geranin, believed to be 50, is seen in a 14-year-old picture in Chechnya obtained by InformNapalm with another suspected GRU figure Igor Girkin - aka Igor Strelkov - who is being sued by MH17 families for his role in commanding rebel forces in eastern Ukraine when the Malaysian Airlines plane was shot down.
Russia blocked a UN-backed tribunal into the downing of MH17.
Now the governments of Australia, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Belgium and Malaysia are deciding on establishing their own tribunal to formally probe the Boeing's loss.
Another key player Russian Major General Sergey Dubinsky - accused of relocating the Buk missile complex - is in hiding and has refused to give details of his knowledge of the incident.
Dutch journalists arriving at his home in Rsotov region were unable to meet and question him.
Separate pictures show the mechanic in 2013 posing in front of a special purpose vehicle
He was also pictured sitting on front of a Buk missile launcher. Moscow insists that no Russian missile systems crossed the Ukrainian border, contrary to the Dutch-led MH17 probe report
Prosecutors said they were investigating 100 people who may be linked to the missile attack on the plane two years ago.
They also insisted there was a 'realistic chance' of a prosecution - though suspects have not been formally identified yet.
At the time of the disaster, pro-Russian separatists were fighting Ukrainian government forces in the region.
The Boeing 777 broke apart in midair, flinging wreckage over several miles of fields in rebel-held territory killing all 298 on board.
A team of prosecutors from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine have been working on the case.