Columns

Russian Missile System from Russian Territory Took Down MH17, Investigators Conclude

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)

Dutch prosecutors have wrapped up their investigation into what took down MH17, the Malaysian Airlines jet carrying 298 souls from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it crashed to the ground over Donetsk, Ukraine, in July 2014.

The culprit? “A BUK missile from the 9M38-series,” launched from “an agricultural field near Pervomaiskyi which, at the time, was controlled by pro-Russian fighters,” says the final report from the Public Prosecution Service’s Joint Investigation Team.

The JIT said it “obtained irrefutable evidence” to back up its findings that the missile system “was transported from Russian territory into eastern Ukraine and was later transported on a white Volvo truck with a low-boy trailer. The truck was escorted by several other vehicles and by armed men in uniform.”

The forensic investigation determined that there was no accident or terrorist on board the plane, and MH17 was brought down by an attack from outside the aircraft. “Sufficient radar data” from both Russia and Ukraine found that “at the time of the crash, no other airplanes were in the vicinity that could have shot down flight MH17.”

“During the autopsy of the bodies of the cockpit crew, several fragments were found that belonged to the warhead of a 9M38 series BUK missile. One of these fragments found showed traces of cockpit glass on the surface, which was the same unique type of glass that is used for the a Boeing 777. It was determined that the fragment pierced the aircraft from the outside through the cockpit window,” Dutch prosecutors said.

Investigators were able to map out to “a large part of the route concerning the arrival and the departure of the BUK-TELAR” Russian missile system that brought down the plane due to “intercepted telephone conversations, witness statements, photographs and videos that had been posted on social media, and a video never shown before which was obtained from a witness.”

Witnesses also saw a plume of smoke at the launch site and the condensation trail of the missile.

“A short time” after taking down the passenger plane, the missile system “was reloaded onto the Volvo truck and transported back to the Russian border. During the night, the convoy crossed the border into the territory of the Russian Federation.”

The investigative team said it “has identified approximately 100 people who can be linked to the downing of MH17 or the transport of the BUK-TELAR.”

“In addition, an investigation is conducted into the chain of command. Who gave the order to bring the BUK-TELAR into Ukraine and who gave the order to shoot down flight MH17? Did the crew decide for themselves or did they execute a command from their superiors? This is important when determining the offences committed by the alleged perpetrators.” The JIT’s investigative powers in the case have been extended to Jan. 1, 2018.

The majority of passengers on the plane — 193 — were from the Netherlands.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte told a news conference this morning that the families of the victims were briefed on the report this morning.

“This is a big step towards the ultimate goal: tracking down the perpetrators and bringing them to justice. Step by step we are getting closer,” Rutte said. “The criminal investigation is still in full swing. The international investigation team – the Dutch Public Prosecution Service and police, and the investigative authorities of Australia, Belgium, Ukraine and Malaysia – are still conducting an extensive investigation into the individuals who can be held responsible.”

“It is essential that the Joint Investigation Team be able to continue its work with total independence, with focus and determination and without any political interference.”

The Kremlin-controlled Sputnik news agency reported that Russia’s Foreign Ministry is “disappointed” in the report.

“The conclusion of the Dutch prosecutors confirm that the case is biased and politically motivated,” ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement. “It sounds like a cruel joke, but Ukraine was made a full-fledged member of the JIT, giving it an opportunity to falsify evidence and have the case develop to its advantage…Everything that the so-called ‘evidence base’ of the Dutch prosecution is based on was provided by the Ukrainian agencies, which are indubitably an interested side.”

“And the final conclusions of the investigation, unlike the preliminary ones, will turn into an objective truth and will finally point to the real culprits in this tragedy.”

Rutte noted that the investigation “is asking a lot of the victims’ families, for whom answers cannot come quickly enough.”

“Patience is a lot to ask of people who can face grief, disbelief and anger on a regular basis. We are always mindful of that struggle. We will continue to stand side by side with the victims’ families,” the prime minister said. “Working alongside the other JIT countries and with the broad support of the international community, we will continue striving to ensure that those responsible for the MH17 disaster do not escape justice.”