AN international team of investigators has determined that the missile which blew Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 out of the sky nearly four years ago came from a Russia-based military unit.
International representatives, including Australian Federal Police, today gathered in the Netherlands to announce they had found “convincing evidence” that MH17 was shot down by a Buk-TELAR missile from Russia.
Wilbert Paulissen of the Dutch National Police said that detailed analysis of video images showed the missile was from the Russian military’s 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade based in the Russian city of Kursk.
The top Dutch investigator said the international Joint Investigation Team “has come to the conclusion that the BUK-TELAR that shot down MH17 came from 53rd Anti-aircraft Missile Brigade based in Kursk in Russia”.
“The 53rd Brigade forms part of the Russian armed forces,” he said.
Mr Paulissen, who was speaking at a presentation of interim results of the long-running investigation into the downing of flight MH17, said an “extensive comparative investigation” of images had revealed the missile’s “fingerprint” and determined the result. The finding backs and confirms the theory of Bellingcat that Russian military missiles were involved.
Australia and other countries are now considering the next steps towards prosecution.
Earlier findings said the missile launch site was an agricultural field controlled by pro-Russian fighters.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine were now “considering options”.
The countries were united to pursue justice for those who lost their lives as well as their loved ones, she said.
“That a sophisticated weapon belonging to the Russian Army was dispatched and used to shoot down a civilian aircraft should be of grave international concern,” Ms Bishop said.
Flight MH17 was headed from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, when it was blown out of the sky over eastern Ukraine, 40km south of the Russian border on July 17, 2014. All 298 passengers and crew were killed, including 40 Australian citizens and residents. Among the dead were Western Australia siblings Mo, 12, Evie, 10, and Otis, eight, along with their grandfather, Nick Norris.
Russia has always denied involvement in the downing of the jet.
This year’s federal budget allocated $50.3 million over four years to support the Dutch national prosecution of those responsible for the attack. The money will meet Australia’s share of the prosecution costs and help family members of the victims to participate in the court proceedings.
The international criminal probe had previously concluded that the Russian missile was fired from Russia-backed rebel-controlled territory but until now had not determined who was responsible. Tapped phone calls and images posted on social media helped the team of investigators determine that missiles were transported by road from Russia into eastern Ukraine before one was fired.
— Eliot Higgins (@EliotHiggins) September 28, 2016
It was revealed soon after the crash that Russian-backed rebels in Ukraine’s east believed they had shot down a Ukraine Airforce fighter jet as disturbing new footage showed them ransacking the luggage of passengers and crew from MH17.
Video footage showing the aftermath of the downed airliner, smouldering over three main wreckage sites about the rebel stronghold of the embattled Dontesk region, provided vital clues into the tragedy.
The 17-minute long footage smuggled out from the rebels’ own Donetsk base, clearly identified the militia by face and in one instance his self proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic ID, as they disturbingly worked around the dismembered bodies of the passengers and crew to rummage through their belongings to find things of value.
The armed unit from Donetsk had come to the site after being dispatched shortly after 3pm local time, two hours after contact by civilian air traffic control was lost at 1.20pm, to hunt Ukrainian pilots who reportedly parachuted after their aircraft was shot down.
They followed a smoke plume from the wreckage to arrive at the site and begin the hunt for the pilots with militia reporting locals as having seen one “crawling” from the scene after parachuting to safety.
But to their confusion, arriving at the scene they find more blazing wreckage and debris than expected before a mobile telephone call was received telling them two aircraft were downed.
The confusion by militia on the day was compounded by the fact MH17 was carrying spare aircraft parts, including struts and rotors for helicopters, leading them to believe more than one aircraft was among that debris.
Speaking in both Russian and Ukrainian, they expressed shock at the backpack of an Australian victim, before they pored through the person’s belongings including a wash bag.
They tossed numerous other bags and make a piled collection of phones and other goods.
The militia unit commander on site ordered civilians to be cleared from the area and all filming to stop, citing his fear it could end up on the internet, after receiving a call from headquarters. He even asked those filming to ensure none of their faces are shown as they go through the bags. He then instructed his men to fan out and retrieve the black box flight recorders and put everything in his car.
The commander could be heard off camera saying: “They say the Sukhoi (Fighter) brought down the civilian plane and ours brought down the fighter.
“But where is the Sukhoi?
“There it is … it’s the passenger plane.”
Later he was shown an ID card belonging to an air stewardess.
“You see, they are foreigners, Malaysians,” he said.
“Who’s opened a corridor for them to fly over here?” a colleague asked.
“Even a f**king parrot flew. There are birds everywhere, here’s one, here’s another. Where from? There’s another bird there!”
The exotic colourful birds were part of the MH17 cargo consignment flying to Malaysia.
The commander received numerous phone calls from people believed to include Ruslan, a rebel military commander from Donetsk, Vladimir Antyufeyev, former Russian policeman turned Donetsk rebel political leader, and Kalyian a rebel commander from the equally embattled province of Lugansk. (By Megan Palin, news.com.au)