INTERNATIONAL investigators have established the clearest link yet to Russian involvement in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine.
The team yesterday unequivocally blamed Russia and revealed evidence pointing to its 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade based in Kursk.
The findings were presented to Moscow but there was no response. Russia denies involvement.
The Netherlands-based Joint Investigation Team (JIT) is not ready to name suspects, but Dutch prosecutor Fred Westerbeke added: ‘We are now entering the last phase of the investigation. When we will be ready, it’s not possible to say because there is still a lot of work to do.’ The team has appealed for witnesses who can testify about the involvement of the brigade.
The Boeing 777 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, when it was blown up on July 17, 2014. All 298 passengers and crew were killed.
Prosecutors said in 2016 that the plane was shot down by a Buk missile fired from eastern Ukraine territory controlled by Russia-backed rebels, using a mobile launcher from Russia. Yesterday’s presentation went a step further by identifying the exact unit allegedly involved and more details of the rocket deployed.
Investigators’ analysis of video, social media photos and parts of the rocket found at the crash scene traced its journey into Ukraine. They have a ‘fingerprint’ identifying the rocket and where it came from.
‘All findings from this forensic investigation confirm the earlier conclusion,’ said Jennifer Hurst of the Australian Federal Police.
Any prosecutions will be processed in the Netherlands. Of those killed 196 were Dutch, 42 Malaysian and 27 Australian. Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok said: ‘This is an important piece of the puzzle. I am very impressed by the evidence.’