Visiting Moscow several times over the last six years to make requests for legal assistance from then-Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika and then-Justice Minister Aleksandr Konovalov, he’s become tired of the dealing with the Russians.
“You are sitting in a huge room at a long table with ten men on each side. In Russia, you should also assume that everything you do is being recorded and that they are trying to blacken you,” Westerbeke told NRC.
“I didn’t take my own phone to Russia. I only had an old Nokia with which you can send text messages and phone calls and throw them in the shredder when you return. “
Besides the need for an intense level of personal security, the Dutchman said often the information provided by the Russians wasn’t even helpful.
He claims what was provided was often only designed to mislead his detectives and investigators.
“We wanted information on Buk missiles. We wanted to hear people and gather technical evidence. In fact, we always asked: give us everything that can contribute to the truth in this matter,” Westerbeke said.
“We received a lot. Especially information that had to distract us. We never got what we really asked for.”
The murder trial of Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov and Leonid Kharchenko, which began in the Netherlands on March 9, opened with prosecutors outlining Russian interference in the murder probe.
There were allegations of Russian news outlets spreading false news about MH17’s crash and Russian security service agents posing a grave threat to vulnerable witnesses and their families.
There was also a claim that Russia possibly hacked the investigation and partially leaked case files to spread disinformation.
Westerbeke agrees that like the four accused, Russia’s government is being tried in absentia.
“In a way, yes. In fact, in this criminal case it also becomes clear what the role of the Russian Federation has been and what material we have about it,” he said.
“The Russians are of course following this matter with suspicion: ‘What exactly does JIT have and do we get away with our denials that we played no role in the downing of MH17?’ So far they have succeeded quite well.”
The next hearing of the trial is set for Monday but will be broadcast only due to coronavirus safety measures.