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A Russian claiming to be a former officer with the Wagner Group has arrived in the Netherlands and says he wants to provide evidence to the International Criminal Court, which is investigating atrocities in the war in Ukraine.
Dutch news program EenVandaag reported Monday that Igor Salikov had flown into the Netherlands. The news show spoke to him via a videolink. He is believed to have applied for asylum and could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Salikov said he was in eastern Ukraine in 2014 when conflict erupted there, and in 2022 when Russia invaded its neighbor.
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“I know where the orders came from,” he told EenVandaag. His claims could not be independently verified.
A view of the exterior view of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, on March 31, 2021. A Russian claiming to be a former officer with the Wagner Group has arrived in the Netherlands and says he wants to provide evidence to the International Criminal Court. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)
The Wagner Group, a military contractor created by Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, deployed to eastern Ukraine when a Moscow-backed separatist rebellion erupted there in 2014. It also took part in Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, spearheading the battle for the eastern city of Bakhmut that was captured by Russian forces in May.
Prigozhin, who staged a brief mutiny in June when he sent Wagner mercenaries to march on Moscow demanding the ouster of top military leaders, was killed in an air crash in August.
The ICC issued an international arrest warrant in March for Russian President Vladimir Putin, alleging that he was responsible for the abduction of children from Ukraine. Information about the Russian chain of command could be crucial in building more cases against senior Russians involved in the war.
The court’s prosecution office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Salikov also claims to have information about the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in 2014.
All 298 passengers and crew were killed when the plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, by a Russian missile system known as a Buk TELAR. A Dutch court convicted two Russians and a pro-Moscow Ukrainian rebel in November 2022 for their roles in downing the Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight.
In February, the Joint Investigation Team said it had uncovered “strong indications” that Putin approved the supply of heavy anti-aircraft weapons to Ukrainian separatists who shot down the plane.
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However, the team said they had insufficient evidence to prosecute Putin or any other suspects and they suspended their 8½-year inquiry.
The investigative team is made up of police and judicial authorities from the Netherlands, Australia, Malaysia, Ukraine and Belgium — nations hard hit by the downing.
“The Joint Investigation Team that investigated the downing of MH17 follows with great interest the news that a Russian military (member) possibly wants to testify in the Netherlands at the ICC about Russian war crimes,” the team said in a written response to questions from The Associated Press.”If this person has specific and reliable inside information on the chain of command that authorized the Buk TELAR that shot down MH17, the JIT would be interested in receiving it.”
While the active investigation into the downing of the Boeing 777 was halted in February, “our door remains open for Russian insider witnesses. The JIT remains committed to the MH17 investigation,” the team’s statement said.