Missile That Took Down MH17 Came from Russian Army Unit, Investigators Find

An employee of a water station examines large piece of MH-17 still sitting on the ground near Hrabove village, eastern Ukraine, on July 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)

The missile that killed 298 people flying above eastern Ukraine in 2014 was from a Russian brigade, Dutch investigators confirmed for the first time today.

MH17, the Malaysian Airlines jet flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was taken down by a BUK missile from the 9M38-series, the Netherlands’ Public Prosecution Service’s Joint Investigation Team already revealed in 2016.


Today, the team released an update stating they are “convinced that the BUK-TELAR that was used to down MH17 originates from the 53rd Anti Aircraft Missile brigade, a unit of the Russian army from Kursk in the Russian Federation.”

“The JIT reached this conclusion after extensive comparative research. During today’s meeting, an animation of this comparative research was shown. Several images of the BUK-TELAR with which MH17 was downed are available. Analysis of those produces a number of characteristics. The combination of those is so special that that can be considered as a fingerprint,” the JIT said. “This fingerprint has been compared with numerous images of BUK-TELARS, both Ukrainian and Russian ones. The only BUK-TELAR on which this combination of characteristics also was found, is a BUK-TELAR that was recorded several times when it joined a convoy of the 53rd brigade on 23 – 25 June 2014.”

“Who formed part of the crew? With which instruction did they set out? Who was responsible for the operational deployment of this BUK-TELAR on 17 July 2014?” asked the head of the National Investigation Service of the Dutch police, Wilbert Paulissen. “We are convinced that many people have this information. That may be members of the 53rd Brigade, but also relatives, friends or acquaintances. And even people who have nothing to do with the 53rd Brigade.”


“Please do not keep that information to yourself but contact the JIT,” he implored. “Our investigators can speak with you in several languages, among which Russian and Ukrainian.”

The JIT characterized the MH17 criminal probe as “a large and complex investigation that steadily progresses.” Victims’ families were briefed on the new findings.

“From the first hours after the tragedy, Russia’s Defense Ministry has consistently refuted the Ukrainian insinuations that allege Russian armed forces were complicit in the catastrophe in Ukraine’s airspace and have passed the relevant evidence to the Dutch investigative group,” Russia’s defense ministry said in a statement. “Not a single anti-aircraft missile system belonging to the Russian Armed Forces has ever crossed the Russian-Ukrainian border.”

Russia has not reported to the JIT that a BUK of the 53rd Brigade was deployed in eastern Ukraine and that this BUK downed flight MH17, investigators said.

One reason for the new witness appeal is that the JIT “no longer wants to exclusively turn to the Russian authorities to obtain information about this subject,” said their statement.

State Department press secretary Heather Nauert said in a statement today that the U.S. “has complete confidence” in the findings of the JIT.


“Today’s announcement confirms and adds detail to what we have said from the earliest days of this tragedy: MH17 was shot down by a Russian-made BUK surface-to-air missile fired from territory in eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia and Russia-led forces,” Nauert said. “We recall the UN Security Council’s demand that ‘those responsible … be held to account and that all States cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability.’ We call upon Russia, in particular, to respect and adhere to UN Security Council Resolution 2166 (2014). It is time for Russia to cease its lies and account for its role in the shoot down.”

“We remain confident in the ability of the Dutch criminal justice system to prosecute those responsible in a manner that is fair and just.”


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