MH17 Witness Says European Detectives Offered Protection In Netherlands To Get Crash Info

Vladimir Tsemakh, a witness and potential suspect in the case of flight MH17's 2014 downing in Donbas, said in an interview released on Friday that when he was questioned on the case in Kiev, European investigators offered to provide him with a house in the Netherlands as part of the witness protection program in exchange for information about the crash.

In June, Tsemakh, a former commander of the air defense unit of the city of Snizhne, which is under the control of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, was abducted by the Ukrainian special forces and taken to Kiev. He was subsequently released in September in a prisoner swap with Russia. While he was still in custody, the Netherlands had contacted Ukraine requesting it to prevent Tsemakh's travel to Russia, citing him as a suspect in the MH17 investigation.

Tsemakh gave an interview to journalist Kirill Vyshinsky, the executive director of the Rossiya Segodnya news agency, for the latter's "People of Donbas" documentary, the first episode of which was released on YouTube earlier on Friday.

The former captive said in the interview that during his detention in Kiev, he was interrogated by the Ukrainian special forces, and later by the Australian and Dutch police.

"They offered me a witness protection program, citizenship, a house in the Netherlands for some reason, and I was surprised why not in Australia. I did not bargain," Tsemakh said, noting that an officer from the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine warned him that he would likely face life imprisonment, but everything would depend on what he would tell European investigators.