Dutch prosecutors have determined that the missile that shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17, 2014, came from territory at the time held by pro-Russian fighters, namely a field near Pervomaiskyi in eastern Ukraine. During a presentation on Wednesday to victims’ relatives, the Netherlands’ Joint Investigation Team (JIT) also claimed to possess “irrefutable evidence” that a Russian-made 9M38-series BUK missile shot down the Boeing 777. Members of the JIT, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine, which continue their work on the criminal investigation into the crash of flight MH17, have not directly blamed Russia for the atrocity, however.
The investigators have ruled out alternative scenarios including a terrorist attack from inside the aircraft or an air-to-air missile from another aircraft. According to a report issued Wednesday, all forensic examinations, witness statements, telecom information, satellite images, radar data, findings by experts and other supporting evidence point to an attack by a ground-based air defense system.
“The JIT has obtained sufficient radar data, both from Russia and Ukraine, which—when viewed in conjunction—provide a full picture of the airspace over eastern Ukraine,” said the report. “This shows that at the time of the crash, no other airplanes were in the vicinity that could have shot down flight MH17.” Furthermore, Russian officials said last week that they have found “new” primary radar images that suggest that no second airplane could have shot down MH17.
The JIT said it identified a large part of the route concerning the arrival and the departure of the BUK transporter erector launcher and radar (TELAR) through intercepted telephone conversations, witness statements, photographs and videos posted on social media, and a video never shown before obtained from a witness. The system was transported from Russian territory into eastern Ukraine and later transported on a white Volvo truck with a low-boy trailer. Several other vehicles and armed men in uniform escorted the truck.
Investigators also said evidence that supports the launch site includes multiple witnesses who saw and photographed the condensation trail of the BUK missile and its movement through the air. Other witnesses were able to link the trail to the BUK-TELAR which they had seen earlier on July 17, 2014. After the BUK missile fired, the TELAR initially drove off under its own power, continued the report. A short time later it 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, investigators concluded.
Determining the identity of the perpetrators “will be a matter for the long haul,” said the JIT. So far, the team has identified about 100 people with links to the downing of MH17 or the transport of the BUK-TELAR. The JIT’s has conducted its investigation of those people through various sources, such as intercepted telephone conversations and witness statements.
Finally, the JIT continues an investigation into the chain of command. Elements include questions over who gave the order to bring the BUK-TELAR into Ukraine and who gave the order to shoot down Flight MH17.