Ukrainian military pilot blamed over shooting down of MH17 commits 'suicide'

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MH17
A Malaysian air crash investigator inspects the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo) in Donetsk region, Ukraine, July 22, 2014. Reuters/Maxim Zmeyev

Ukrainian media has reported police as saying that a military pilot facing blame over the 2014 downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 killed himself in his home in Mykolaiv on Monday. Capt Vladyslav Voloshyn had been blamed by Russia for shooting down the flight, but the pilot had called the allegations a lie.

Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine in July 2014. Of the 298 passengers and crew, over two-thirds were Dutch flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. According to Dutch investigators, a Russian Buk missile had destroyed the Boeing 777 jet, leaving 298 people dead.

Voloshyn's wife reportedly said she heard gunshots before contacting an ambulance. However, paramedics failed to save the pilot's life.

There are reports claiming that a military service pistol was recovered at the scene. Experts are now examining the pistol.

The 29-year-old SU-25 fighter pilot had reportedly been working at Mykolaiv airport after retiring from the airforce. He flew 33 combat missions in a low-flying Su-25 ground attack jet against Russian-backed separatist rebels. Ukraine described him as a war hero after he received a medal for bravery.

Mykolaiv police posted a statement on Facebook, describing Voloshyn’s death as a "suicide." Under the premeditated murder article of the country’s criminal code, his death is under investigation.

Voloshyn had reportedly said that he was a victim of a smear campaign by Russian officials. Another Russian theory states that it was a Ukrainian military Buk missile that downed MH17.

Some independent experts said that the evidence pointed to a Buk fired by a Russian military unit or by pro-Russian rebels. The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) wants to put the suspects on trial in the Netherlands. Such is fraught, however, with legal difficulties.

Ukrainian media has quoted family members as saying that Voloshyn was feeling depressed. Ukrainian journalist Yuriy Butusov took to Facebook to praise him (in Russian) as an exemplary pilot who fought bravely against the Russian-backed rebels.

"He didn't let himself break down, he wasn't depressed at all - he always acted as an exemplary officer,” he wrote, adding that he did not hear Voloshyn speak of any enemies or unresolved problems.

Butusov added that Voloshyn had bombed Russian paratroops during the battle of Ilovaisk in August 2014. Over 300 Ukrainian soldiers died during the fight there, the BBC reports.