In media circulating picture of the kidnapped after the abduction.
Moscow suddenly demands the extradition of the abducted Tsemakh from Kiev, the JIT demands not to do so because he has now become not only a witness but also a suspect
At 27. June, the Ukrainian secret service SBU had arrested Vladimir (Volodymyr) Tsemakh from his apartment in Snizhne in the "People’s Republic of Donetsk" abducted. Since then he has been detained in Ukraine. He is accused of founding a terrorist organization. Ukrainian intelligence sees him as an important witness for the downing of MH17. He is to testify against the four men charged by the JIT as responsible for the crime. Since he cannot be extradited as a Ukrainian citizen, it was planned to question him via video conference as a witness in the trial scheduled for March in the Netherlands. Actually, a judge had initially ordered a two-month detention, which had ended at the end of August, but it has now been extended while a conflict between Kiev, Moscow and the JIT is going on in the background.
Tsemakh is said to have been the head of air defense in the Snizhne region in the summer of 2014. In a video, Bellingcat sees this, he is reported to have said after the shootdown that he hid the Buk system, but whether he really meant that is disputed, as the interviewer’s question was edited out. He claimed that one (Ukrainian) Sukhoi was shot down and another then shot down MH-17 (Spectacular intelligence operation).
In the meantime, Russia is said to have intervened, putting prere on the new government in Kiev. For a long time, a prisoner exchange between de Ukraine and the "People’s Republics" planned in Donbass. President Selenskyi, who had promised the return of the prisoners during the election campaign, finally reached the first agreements in talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in early July. After negotiations, an agreement was reportedly reached in late August to exchange 33 prisoners at a time.
There was talk that Kiev would release Kirill Vyshinsky, who worked for RIA Novosti Ukraine and was imprisoned for treason in 2018 (Ukraine in information war: fighting propaganda by imprisoning journalists). In return, Kiev demands the release of filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, who was convicted of planning a terrorist attack. Moscow says Sentsov is a Russian citizen, as Crimea is now part of the Russian Federation.
According to media reports, u.a. from Russia’s The Insider, but continued Moscow on 29. August also surprisingly Tsemakh on the list. Without this, it is reported, the exchange was called off again. Zelinskyi is said not to rule this out if Sentsov and the Ukrainian sailors arrested in the Kerch Strait incident are released. The reasons for which Tsemakh is to be replaced are not known. It was allowed to be about the MH17 trial, where he is to appear as a witness. He had declared that he knew nothing about the presence of Russian military when the MH17 was shot down, but perhaps Moscow was worried that he could broker a deal with Kiev.
It is obvious that the Joint Investigation Team in the Netherlands is not pleased to lose an important, perhaps the only, witness in this exchange. In an interview with the AP news agency, Brechtje van de Moosdijk, spokesman for the JIT, said it was uncertain whether it would still be possible to talk to him when he was extradited to Russia. He added that the JIT wanted Tsemakh to stay in Ukraine so that he would be available for further investigations.
The head of the JIT investigation, the public prosecutor Fred Westerbeke, also got involved. It is from "rough meaning", that Tsemakh was available for further interrogation. According to NRC Handelsblad, Westerbeke is said to have written a letter to the Ukrainian government as early as Friday, after which the JIT now considers him a suspect based on new evidence. However, this new information could not be passed on to the members of the JIT, the letter says, which could have upset the other member countries, especially Malaysia, where there is also sharp criticism of the JIT from the head of the government. The exchange was supposed to take place on that day, but it was canceled. Today Kremlin spokesman said that the day of the exchange has not yet been determined: "The ie is sensitive. No announcements can be made now."
Selinskyi can only make the wrong decision. If he surrendered Tsemakh to Russia, he would come under heavy prere from the West, especially if it jeopardized the trial of the four defendants so far, while he would come under criticism in Ukraine if the prisoner exchange fell through, and with it a rapprochement with Russia.