In Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin, lying — willfully, methodically, shamelessly — is the default response to any accusations of wrongdoing. Russia did not meddle in American elections. Accusations of systematic Olympic doping are malicious foreign inventions. The Novichok nerve agent killers in Salisbury, were there only to admire the cathedral’s spire. Russia has nothing to do with the secessionists, mercenaries (PMC Wagner group) in eastern Ukraine, Libya, Syria, etc.

And that’s why the murder charges announced by international prosecutors on Wednesday against three Russians and a Ukrainian over the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 five years ago, with the loss of 298 lives, are very important even if Russia refuses to surrender the suspects or acknowledge their culpability, as it will. Even if there are no defendants in the dock, Moscow’s lies will be.

Russia’s involvement has long been clear. A day after MH17 was shot down over Ukraine’s warring eastern provinces on July 17, 2014, the United States government concluded from available evidence that the plane had been brought down by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile launched from rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine. American officials said at the time that they believed the missile battery had most likely been provided by Russia to pro-Russian separatists.

Subsequent findings by a Joint Investigation Team of prosecutors from Ukraine and four countries whose citizens perished in the disaster — the Netherlands, Malaysia, Belgium and Australia — and by private agencies like the online investigative site Bellingcat meticulously documented how a Russian missile launcher belonging to an active Russian military unit was driven into eastern Ukraine and used to fire a Buk missile at of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

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