Investigators: Russian-made missile downed Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine

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Dutch investigators on Oct. 13 said that Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by a Russian-made BUK missile that was fired from eastern Ukraine. All 298 people on board the July 17, 2014 flight were killed.

“Flight MH17 crashed as a result of the detonation of a warhead outside the airplane against the left-hand side of the cockpit,” Tjibbe Joustra, chairman of the Dutch Safety Board, told a press conference. “This warhead fits the kind of missile that is installed in the BUK surface-to-air missile system.”

Wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 near the Ukrainian town of Grabove on July 17, 2014. /Dmitry Lovetsky/AP
Wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 near the Ukrainian town of Grabove on July 17, 2014. /Dmitry Lovetsky/AP

The investigators did not say who was responsible for firing the missile, but Russian officials were already disputing the Dutch Safety Board’s conclusion.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk blamed the tragedy on Russia’s security service.

“I personally have no doubt that this was a planned operation of the Russian special services aimed at downing a civilian aircraft,” Yatsenyuk told a cabinet meeting.

An earlier report that found the missile was likely fired by pro-Russian rebels was disputed by a source in a report in the Volkskrant daily newspaper.

“The BUK missile is developed and made in Russia,” a source told Volkskrant. “It can be assumed that the rebels would not be able to operate such a device. I suspect the involvement of former Russian military officials.”

The Dutch Safety Board’s report said that some of the 298 on board flight MH17, which was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, may have been conscious during the 90 seconds it took to crash.

“The wreckage was spread over several sites” near the villages of Grabove, Rozsypne and Ptropavlivka, most of which were in rebel territory, the Dutch report said.

Joustra said it would take further investigation to determine the exact location of the missile launch site. He also took Ukrainian authorities to task for allowing civil aircraft to fly over eastern Ukraine during the conflict between Ukraine and the pro-Russian rebels.

About 160 commercial flights had transited the area on the day that MH17 was downed, the report said.

“There was sufficient reason for the Ukrainian authorities to close the air space above the eastern part of their country,” Joustra said.

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