Thursday, May 24, 2018
Flight MH17 shot down by Russian military-sourced missile
The missile launcher used to shoot down MH17 over Ukraine was part of the Russian armed forces, an international team of investigators has confirmed.
Detailed analysis of video images established the missile came from a Russia-based military unit, the joint investigation team said.
Wilbert Paulissen, head of the Dutch national police’s crime squad, said the Buk missile was from the 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade, which is based in the Russian city of Kursk.
“All the vehicles in a convoy carrying the missile were part of the Russian armed forces,” he said at a presentation of the interim results of the long-running investigation.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, when it was shot down over eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014.
All 298 passengers and crew were killed.
Russia has consistently denied involvement in the downing of the Boeing 777. There was no immediate comment from Moscow on the development.
The prosecutors said they had reduced their list of possible suspects from more than 100 to several dozen.
“We have a lot of proof and a lot of evidence, but we are not finished,” said chief prosecutor Fred Westerbeke. “There is still a lot of work to do.”
He said investigators were not yet ready to identify individual suspects publicly or to issue indictments.
The question of whether members of the 53rd Brigade were actively involved in the downing of the plane remains under investigation, he said.
Mr Westerbeke called on witnesses to come forward with any details about the crew operating the missile system. He also asked for tipoffs in determining what their orders were and in identifying the officials in charge of the brigade.
Investigators from the joint investigation team previously released footage showing the missile system, initially carrying four missiles, being transported from Russia by rebels.
Several tapped phone calls featured men’s voices discussing the transport of the Buk missile system from and then back into Russia.
Audio previously released by Ukrainian officials appears to show a panicked militant saying MH17 was shot down in the mistaken belief it was a military plane.
“It was 100 per cent a passenger aircraft,” he can be heard telling a superior. “There are civilian items, medicinal stuff, towels, toilet paper.”
Hours after the passenger plane was shot down, the Buk was seen being driven back towards the Russian border minus one of its four missiles, before the convoy left Ukraine overnight.
Its path was recorded by numerous videos and pictures taken by members of the public.
Shortly after the plane disappeared, a post on social media attributed to Igor Girkin, a Russian army veteran and separatist leader known as Strelkov, claimed rebels had shot down a Ukrainian military transport plane.
The post on the Russian social media network VKontakte, which was shared with a video of rising smoke and was swiftly deleted, said: “We warned them – don’t fly in our sky.”
“All findings from this forensic investigation confirm the earlier conclusion of the JIT that flight MH17 was shot down by 9M38 series missile,” said Jennifer Hurst, of the Australian Federal Police.
In a written statement, Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop, said: “That a sophisticated weapon belonging to the Russian army was dispatched and used to shoot down a civilian aircraft should be of grave international concern. We are discussing these findings with our partners and considering our options.”
In a report in October 2015, the Dutch Safety Board concluded the plane was struck by a Russian-made Buk missile.
One hundred “persons of interest” had been identified in the investigation, Dutch prosecutors said in September 2016, while Australian and Malaysian officials had initially expressed hope the suspects’ names would be made public in 2017.
Eventual suspects are likely to be tried in absentia in the Netherlands after Russia used its veto to block a UN Security Council resolution seeking to create an international tribunal.
Of the nearly 300 people of more than 30 nationalities killed, 186 were Dutch, 42 Malaysian and 27 Australian.
Mark Rutte, the prime minister of the Netherlands, said he was cutting short a visit to India so he could chair a cabinet meeting to discuss the findings.