A team of international prosecutors led by Dutch investigators looking into the shooting down of the MH17 plane over Ukraine said Wednesday the plane was shot down by a BUK missile originating from territory belonging to pro-Russian rebels.
In July 2014, the Boeing 777 broke apart midair, killing all 298 people aboard the plane flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. An earlier inquiry by the Dutch Safety Board said a Russian-made BUK missile hit the plane from the area held by pro-Russian rebels.
“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 reportedly said. These findings are to prepare the ground for a criminal trial.
The Joint Investigation Team reportedly added that it was still unclear if the rebels acted independently or were ordered to shoot the plane down.
Hans de Borst, father of a 17-year-old girl who died in the tragedy, told the Associated Press that he and other family members of those who lost loved ones in the shooting down of the plane were briefed privately before Wednesday’s conference. He added that investigators claimed to have found proof by way of communication intercepts and radar data that suggested that the BUK missile launcher was later moved back to Russia after the plane was shot down.
Sources told the Guardian that the launcher arrived in the village of Snizhne on July 17 in the afternoon. It was then offloaded and driven to another location south of the village. Rebels accidentally shot the plane down, believing that it was a Ukrainian army transport plane. It was then smuggled back to the Russian border early the next day.
At the conference in the Netherlands, Paulissen reportedly said that a farmland 3.7 miles from the village “can be pointed out as the launch site without any doubt.” He added that witnesses said they heard a “loud explosion and a high whistling sound” and then saw a smoke trail in the sky.
“There is a wide presumption in diplomatic circles that this report will point to the involvement of pro-Russian rebels or Russia,” Robert van de Roer, a Dutch diplomatic expert and commentator, said. “It will cause high waves.”
The Kremlin has denied any involvement and on Wednesday added that the radar data showed that the missile that shot down the plane did not come from areas held by the pro-Russian rebels.
“First-hand radar data identified all flying objects which could have been launched or in the air over the territory controlled by rebels at that moment,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reportedly said. “The data are clear-cut... There is no rocket. If there was a rocket, it could only have been fired from elsewhere.”