Saturday 17 November 2018

Experts blame Russian military for missile that shot down MH17

The reconstructed wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash that killed 298 people over eastern Ukraine in July 2014. Photo: Michael Kooren
The reconstructed wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash that killed 298 people over eastern Ukraine in July 2014. Photo: Michael Kooren

Alex Luhn

An international investigation has said the Russian military brought the missile that downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 into eastern Ukraine, leading to the tragedy that killed 298 people.

The Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) said last year the Buk 9M38 surface-to-air missile in question arrived from Russia and was fired from territory held by Russia-backed separatists.

But yesterday's press conference in the Netherlands for the first time implicated the Russian military, of which president Vladimir Putin is commander in chief, in the catastrophe that shocked the world in July 2014.

Although the JIT did not say who pulled the trigger, the conclusion that the 53rd anti- aircraft brigade from Kursk, a unit of a "few hundred people," was operating the missile marks a step closer to naming the perpetrators.

Fred Westerbeke, Holland’s chief prosecutor, presents the interim results in the ongoing international investigation being undertaken in the Netherlands. Photo: Francois Lenoir
Fred Westerbeke, Holland’s chief prosecutor, presents the interim results in the ongoing international investigation being undertaken in the Netherlands. Photo: Francois Lenoir

Investigators said they were working toward a court case in the Netherlands against those who fired the Buk Telar missile system as well as higher-ups in their chain of command. They are reportedly focusing on 100 or so suspects.

The allegations come after Yulia Skripal said she was lucky to have survived an "attempted assassination" with a nerve agent in Salisbury, raising pressure on Russia three weeks before the start of the World Cup.

The JIT said it had again requested information from Russia, which had failed to tell it of this missile unit's activities, and put out another open call for confidential witness testimony.

"We are looking for people that were directly or indirectly involved in the downing of MH17, but we're also thinking of individuals who were responsible for the operation that deployed the Buk Telar," said Wilbert Paulissen, head of the Dutch national police.

Russian officials, who have since the days after the plane went down put out a raft of unlikely theories to shift the blame to Ukraine, began pushing back against the Dutch allegation almost immediately.

Yury Shvytkin, a member of parliament from the ruling party, called the investigation "aggression against our country like that during the Skripal case" and claimed it would have to "at the minimum" find a soldiers' fingerprints on the Buk missile to accuse Moscow.

Lenoir Linda and Tirso Pabellon, grieving relatives who lost their sister Irene Pabellon Gunawan in the catastrophe. Photo: Bullit Marquez
Lenoir Linda and Tirso Pabellon, grieving relatives who lost their sister Irene Pabellon Gunawan in the catastrophe. Photo: Bullit Marquez

One of the two main Russian state television channels ignored the news yesterday, while the other posted a news item on its website that avoided any mention of the Russian military involvement.

Those killed when the missile hit MH17 at 33,000 feet, raining bodies and debris onto the farm fields below, were mostly Dutch but also of 17 other nationalities including British, Australian, Malaysian and Indonesian.

Mr Paulissen said a "fingerprint for the missile" had been established through seven markings and features on the sides of the launcher visible in social media images.

Photographs, videos and witness testimony traced the progress of this launcher in a convoy from Kursk to the Ukrainian border in June 2014, and it was photographed again near the launch site on the day of the catastrophe.

Investigators also detonated a Buk missile to compare the debris to that found in the fields and bodies of MH17 victims, according to Australian federal police chief Jennifer Hurst.

She displayed an engine casing and thrust nozzle from the Buk responsible with a serial number she said indicated it had been produced at a factory near Moscow in 1986. Asked whether there were satellite images of the launch, Dutch chief prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said the investigation had more information that it could not reveal at the risk of "showing our cards to the other side". (© Daily Telegraph London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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