Wednesday, September 28, 2016 8:39 pm
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 shot down over eastern Ukraine in July 2014, was struck by a Buk missile brought into the conflict zone from Russia, investigators have said.
The investigators made the disclosure on Wednesday at a press conference in Nieuwegein, Netherlands while presenting the long-awaited findings of a criminal investigation into the crash.
The Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) said that the Buk missile defence system was later transported back to Russia after the plane was downed.
JIT Investigator, Fred Westerbeke, said that the investigation sought to determine the type and origins of the missile that downed the Boeing airliner.
He said that the findings supported conclusions drawn in a previous report that indicated the plane was hit by a Buk surface-to-air missile fired by pro-Russian rebels.
Westerbeke said that the team of investigators were now convinced that the Buk missile was fired from a farmland near the city of Pervomaiskyi, “which at the time, was controlled by pro-Russian fighters.’’
He said that the team had gathered ample evidence to prosecute the perpetrators in a court of law, without giving further details on where and when a trial would take place.
Westerbeke said that 100 investigators and public prosecutors worked on the probe to analyse thousands of pieces of debris and half a million videos and photographs.
“The team listened to 150,000 intercepted telephone calls.
“One audio intercept was played at the press conference and appeared to show pro-Russian rebels calling for the missile launch,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, Russia responded by denouncing the international investigation as “biased” and “politically motivated.”
Maria Zakharova, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said in a statement that it had become the norm for their Western colleagues to arbitrarily designate a guilty party and invent the desired results.
In his response on Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that Moscow had unambiguous evidence that had been ignored by the international investigation team.
He said that Moscow had analysed radar data and found no evidence of a missile downing the airliner.
“If there had been a missile, it could have been launched from other territory,’’ he said.
The Malaysia Airlines flight, enroute from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed in Ukraine’s disputed Donetsk region in July 2014 amid clashes between pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian military.
The incident killed all 298 people aboard, most of them Dutch nationals. (dpa/NAN)