International prosecutors on Wednesday said that four men, including three with close ties to the Russian military and intelligence, would face murder charges in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine five years ago, killing 298 people.
Fred Westerbeke, the chief prosecutor of the Netherlands, said that the trial would begin in the Netherlands on March 9, 2020. The accused are unlikely to be present, however, since three are in Russia and the fourth is believed to be in the breakaway region in Ukraine.
But investigators said they would seek international arrest warrants for the suspects, and put out a new call for more witnesses.
“This is the start of the Dutch criminal proceedings,” Mr. Westerbeke said.
Three of the suspects are Russian, the investigators said at a news conference in Nieuwegein, Netherlands: Igor Girkin, a former colonel in the F.S.B., the Russian domestic security agency; and Sergey Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov, who have worked for the G.R.U., the Russian military intelligence agency.
The fourth man, Leonid Kharchenko, a Ukranian, led a separatist combat unit under Mr. Dubinsky.
The charges, based on a lengthy investigation conducted by officials of five countries affected by the disaster — the Netherlands, Malaysia, Ukraine, Belgium and Australia — expands on earlier reports about the Russian hand in the separatist faction in eastern Ukraine that has been fighting a civil war against government forces.