THE HAGUE, Netherlands, Sept. 28 (UPI) — A Dutch-led investigation has concluded that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine two years ago by a missile fired from territory controlled by Russian-backed rebels.
Dutch prosecutors traced Russia’s role in bringing the missile system into Ukraine and its cover-up attempts after all 298 on board were killed when the Boeing 777 jet broke up in midair during a flight from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on July 17, 2014.
Prosecutors from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine laid out their evidence at a news conference Wednesday.
“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,” chief Dutch police investigator Wilbert Paulissen said.
Individual suspects were not named, and it was not stated whether Russian soldiers played a part.
But Paulissen said the missile launcher was later taken back to Russia.
Family members also were briefed about the report.
“They told us how the Buk was transported [and] how they came to that evidence from phone taps, photo, film material, video,” Robby Oehler, whose niece was killed in the crash, told the BBC.
Russia and separatists denied claims that rebels in eastern Ukraine fired the missile.
“We never had such air defense systems, nor the people who could operate them,” Eduard Basurin, military deputy operational commander at the rebel Donetsk People’s Republic, told the Interfax news agency. “Therefore we could not have shot down the Boeing [flight MH17].”
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday called for “an impartial and full investigation of that tragedy.”
He also disputed the report.
“This affair has overgrown with a tremendous amount of speculations and loads of low quality, unprofessional information,” Peskov said. “Also, some countries conceal or refuse to provide large amounts of information, such as radar data and so on. One must state that quite unambiguously.”
Radar images released by the Russian military Monday showed nothing near the airliner, Peskov said. “This is not a hypothesis but unambiguous data based on primary radar data,” Peskov said. “This is a thing that cannot be argued and must not be discussed.”
But investigators’ evidence included intercepted phone calls that were played during a news conference. And witnesses reported seeing the missile launcher move from Russia into Ukraine.
Last year the Dutch Safety Board found that a Buk missile hit the plane but did not say where it was fired from.
But in intercepted phone calls, separatists are heard requesting the Buk missile system for defense from Ukrainian airstrikes. Later they were told they would receive the weapons system that night, according to the report.
Investigators used phone calls, social media posts and witness testimony to track the convoy’s route to a patch of farmland where the missile was launched, about 8 miles southeast from the crash site near Ukraine’s border with Russia.
Investigators said they spoke to a separatist who confirmed a portion of the system’s return to the Russian border.