Vladimir Tsemakh is an alleged air defence specialist for pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine [File: Serhii Nuzhnenko/Reuters]

Russia allowed a suspect in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 to return to rebel-held eastern Ukraine, Dutch prosecutors have said, in defiance of an extradition agreement.

Vladimir Tsemakh, an alleged air defence specialist for pro-Moscow separatists, was one of dozens of prisoners exchanged by Kyiv and Moscow in September in a deal hailed as a first step towards ending five years of conflict.

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The Netherlands said it had then immediately asked Moscow at the highest levels to hand him over for questioning over the 2014 downing of the plane, but that Russia said it could not find him.

“According to media reports, Mr

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