Investigators: Russian missile brought down MH17 over Ukraine

Investigators say they have ‘convincing evidence’ to support their report of the incident that killed 298 people.

An international criminal investigating body concluded a Russian missile brought down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

In a report released in The Hague on Thursday, investigators said they have “convincing evidence” to support their report, adding the Russian Brigade 53 was in possession of the missile. 

Russia denied the allegations, saying Ukraine forces brought the aircraft down.

The Boeing 777 was blown up as it flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 passengers on board, including 193 Dutch citizens.

Data from recovered flight recorders showed the aircraft was punctured multiple times by shrapnel, which resulted in an explosive loss of pressure, according to Ukrainian investigators. 

In an interim report in 2016, investigators said the airliner was brought down by a surface-to-air missile launched from a territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists.  

At that time, Russian-backed forces were fighting for control of eastern Ukraine.

Moscow and the Ukrainian anti-government separatist groups it supports have previously denied involvement in the incident.

On Thursday, Russia rejected the investigation’s conclusions and pointed the finger at Ukraine instead. 

“Not a single anti-aircraft missile system from the Russian Federation has ever crossed the Russia-Ukraine border,” a statement from the Russian defence ministry said.

Russia’s foreign ministry said the investigation’s outcome “causes us regret”. 

“It is nothing but an allegation aimed at tarnishing our country’s image on the international stage,” a ministry statement carried by TASS news agency said.

In 2015, Russia vetoed a UN resolution seeking to create an international tribunal to prosecute those who shot down the plane. 

Trial ‘within five years’

Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands, reporting from St Petersburg in Russia, said the new findings from the investigation team have been known for months from reports by citizens journalists.

“The investigation hasn’t specifically named names, but it is clear from what they have been saying today that they are pointing the blame today at the Russian military itself,” he said.

Evert van Zijtveld, the Dutch president of the foundation for relatives of MH17 victims welcomed the findings and said it’s good there is now clarity about the involvement of the Russian Brigade 53.

“We of course want the perpetrators to be tracked down and tried in court,” Van Zijtveld, who lost his two children and parents-in-law in the crash, told Al Jazeera.

At a press conference on Thursday, Dutch chief prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said those responsible for downing the plane should appear in court “within five years”. 

“It’s been four years and by now it should be nearly clear where we’re standing,” van Zijtveld said, adding he remains confident the perpetrators will be brought to a trial. 

For years, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Russia must be held accountable shooting down the airliner.

On the third anniversary of the tragedy, Poroshenko described it as a “barefaced crime”.

At the time of the incident, Russian and Ukrainian forces were engaged in fighting after Moscow annexed Crimea.

Nearly 10,000 people were killed during the conflict that broke out between pro-Russia fighters and Ukrainian government forces.

The Boeing 777 aircraft was travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down by a missile [Reuters]
The Boeing 777 aircraft was travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down by a missile [Reuters]
Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies