Missile that downed MH17 came from Russia, investigation rules
Inquiry into downed flight says Buk missile was fired from area in Ukraine occupied by pro-Russian rebels
Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine by a missile that had come from Russia, investigators have concluded.
Relatives of the 298 passengers and crew onboard the flight, which was downed while travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in July 2014, have faced a long and agonising wait for answers.
Now, international prosecutors have ruled the Buk missile was transported into Ukraine from Russia and was fired from an area occupied by pro-Russian rebels.
The joint investigation team (JIT) faced "extraordinary challenges" in the inquiry, says the Associated Press. "The crime scene in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk oblast was located in an active war zone, and during the days following the crash pro-Kremlin militants limited access to the site," it says.
More than 100 people will now be investigated, according to the Dutch-led team. "The findings are meant to prepare the ground for a criminal trial," the BBC reports.
JIT team not going so far as saying who exactly its 100+ #MH17 suspects are, or their nationality, and won't blame the Kremlin directly.— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) September 28, 2016
Prior to the report being released, the Kremlin issued a statement denying the rocket had been fired from rebel-held territory in Ukraine. Russia has long denied sending troops to eastern Ukraine or having any involvement in the attack.
However, investigators said there was "no doubt whatsoever" that their conclusions were accurate.
The MH17 team have recordings of telephone conversations, signals from phone masts, evidence from witnesses, all showing the Buk's route— Daniel Sandford (@BBCDanielS) September 28, 2016
"The finding raises questions about the involvement of the Russian armed forces, the Kremlin, and [Russian President] Vladimir Putin himself in the disaster," the Daily Telegraph reports.
"As expected, [investigators] have avoided saying explicitly whether Russian military personnel were involved. That is a question that will have to be answered in due course."
The families of dozens of the victims filed a lawsuit at the European Court of Human Rights in May which directly names Putin as the man responsible for the attack.
"We are making small steps to a bigger step: the prosecution of the people who did this," said Dennis Schoten, one of the relatives of those on board. "They will be brought to justice."
MH17: Two years on and what do we know?
Malaysia Airlines has settled its first batch of damages claims brought by relatives of passengers who died on flight MH17.
Two years after a missile brought the plane down over eastern Ukraine, during its journey from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, a lawyer representing some of the 165 Dutch victims told Netherlands national broadcaster NOS that some claims have been settled while others are "ongoing".
Details are confidential, but under the 1999 Montreal Convention, "airlines must pay damages of up to about $145,000 (£109,000) to victims' families, regardless of the circumstances of a crash", the BBC reports.
However, for many of the relatives of the 298 passengers and crew, unanswered questions remain about what happened on 17 July 2014.
An October 2015 report concluded the aircraft was downed by a Russian-made 9M38 Buk surface-to-air missile, but stopped short of accusing any nation or group of firing at the plane.
However, "multiple independent investigations" have supported Ukraine's claim that the launch area was in the control of pro-Russian separatists at the time the missile was fired, says the Daily Telegraph.
Investigative journalism group Bellingcat, in a report released in May, traced the missile to the 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade of the Russian army, based in the Russian city of Kursk.
Russia strenuously denies this and blames Ukrainian national forces for the crash.
Nevertheless, five Australian families are suing Russia and President Vladimir Putin in the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of relatives killed in the crash.
The lawsuit is being led by US lawyer Jerry Skinner, who successfully represented the families of victims of the 1988 Lockerbie disaster in their claim for compensation from Libya. Earlier this month, he told the Telegraph that taking on the case had made him fear for his life, but warned he would not be deterred by any intimidation from the Kremlin.
"This is not an issue that is ever going to go away," he said. "The easiest way is to acknowledge participation."