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The last location of Flight MH17, taken from the flight data recorder (FDR).
The last location of Flight MH17, taken from the flight data recorder (FDR).

Prosecutors: Russian-armed rebels shot down flight MH17, killing all 298 people on board

International investigation finds a Buk missile delivered from Kursk hit MH17 flight from territory controlled by Russian separatists
Sep 28th 2016, 12:09 PM 19,617 196

RUSSIAN-ARMED REBELS were responsible for shooting down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board, criminal prosecutors said today.

A report by the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) released this lunchtime confirmed that the missile that downed the plane was fired from rebel-controlled territory.

The Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was brought down over Ukraine by a ‘ground-based air defence system’, the report concludes.

“Based on the criminal investigation we have concluded that flight MH17 was downed by a BUK missile of the series 9M83, that came from the territory of the Russian Federation,” the head of the Dutch police investigation Wilbert Pualissen said.

He added that the missile launcher system “was taken back to Russia”.

The team of international prosecutors have ruled out any possibility that it was shot down by another aircraft. Two hundred witnesses were interviewed, while 500,000 videos and photographs were viewed.

One hundred and fifty thousand intercepted phone calls were listened to, meanwhile.

This lunchtime lead criminal investigator Wilbert Paulissen has said, in Dutch, that the missiles that downed MH17 came from the Russian Federation.

The report is due to pinpoint the exact spot in eastern Ukraine from where a missile was fired at the plane – and from where the missile originated.

There has been growing frustration among relatives over the pace of the probe after the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was brought down in July 2014 on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 people on board including 196 Dutch citizens.

Buk missile

Last year a separate inquiry led by the Dutch Safety Board (OVV) found the Boeing 777 was hit by a BUK missile fired from an area most likely in rebel-held eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been battling Ukrainian forces since early 2014.

Now the criminal investigation is expected to shed light on the exact type of BUK missile used. The missiles are made by Russia, but the militaries of both Russia and Ukraine possess them.

Investigators may crucially also show exactly where the Russian-made missile was fired from in the war-torn region, which could point a finger at the likely perpetrators.

But to the frustration of relatives, the Dutch prosecution has already cautioned it will not be naming any suspects at the briefing, taking place in the central town of Nieuwegein, near Utrecht.

The investigation has been headed by the Dutch prosecution service, but includes teams from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine. They first met with relatives of the victims on Wednesday to discuss the results.

MH17 pt2 The last location of the aircraft in flight. Source: Dutch Safety Board

Trial

“Apart from wanting to know exactly what weapon was used and where it was fired from, we also want an answer as to where we go from here,” said Evert van Zijtveld, chairman of the foundation that supports families of MH17 victims.

“We want to see the perpetrators caught and put on trial,” he told AFP. Zijtveld lost his 18-year-old son Robert-Jan and daughter Frederique, 19, in the tragedy.

He voiced frustration at the progress of the probe, saying “in any case, it doesn’t seem that this problem can be solved by politicians.”

“We hope the perpetrators will be caught soon. The last thing we want is to sit with a situation similar to Lockerbie,” he said, referring to the bombing of a Pan Am jet over the Scottish town of Lockerbie 26 years ago in which 270 people were killed.

Libyan Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi was only found guilty 12 years later in 2001 — the only person ever convicted of the crime. He maintained his innocence until his death in 2012.

Ukraine MH17 flight recovery team members erect a No Trespassing sign in the village of Hrabove, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine in 2014. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Trading accusations

Russia this week again sought to deflect the blame for the MH17 disaster. On Monday it released what it said were radar images showing that no missile fired from rebel-held territory in the east could have hit the plane.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted today that Russia had provided “exhaustive information” which investigators should take into account.

“The data is unequivocal and on that data, there is no missile,” he said.

Therefore if there was a missile it could have been launched only from a different territory.

Ukraine and the West insist pro-Russian rebels blew the jet out of the sky with a Russian-made missile system likely supplied by Moscow.

The tragedy saw the European Union slap tougher sanctions on Russia – blamed by the West for fomenting rebellion and invading eastern Ukraine. The punitive measures remain in place as the fighting drags on.

Russia and the rebels have consistently denied any role in downing the plane, and have instead blamed Ukrainian government forces.

With reporting from AFP. - © AFP, 2016

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