UKRAINE by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Russia responsible for MH17 crash: investigation
, October 22, 2016
A criminal investigation team operating under the auspices of the Dutch Public Prosecution Service has confirmed that Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, which crashed in eastern Ukraine two years ago, was brought down by a Russian missile that had been brought from Russia into territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists.
The launch vehicle was subsequently moved back into Russia.
Although the investigation is ongoing, it is likely that criminal charges will eventually be laid against suspects responsible for the downing of the flight, and victims’ families will seek compensation.
A Russian-manufactured BUK missile system.
The report was published on the website of the Dutch Public Prosecution Service, because Ukraine asked the Netherlands to take the lead role in the investigation into the crash of MH17, as the flight originated in Amsterdam and 196 of the 283 passengers killed came from the Netherlands.
A further 38 of the passengers who died were Australian citizens or residents.
Russia had claimed that Ukrainian jets had brought down MH17 – a claim denied by Ukraine – so Ukrainian authorities clearly wanted the investigation to proceed at arms length from the Ukrainian government.
Because several countries were directly involved, including Australia and Malaysia, a five-country Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was set up to conduct the criminal investigation into the downing of MH17 and identify suspects.
The report said: “In the JIT, the Netherlands Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Dutch National Police work together with police and judicial authorities of Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine.
“The purpose of the criminal investigation is to establish the facts, identify those responsible for the crash and to collect evidence which can be used in court.”
The reason for the slow investigation is that both Russia and Ukraine deny responsibility for the attack on the plane over eastern Ukraine, and the limited access to the site and eyewitnesses in the Russian-controlled so-called Donetsk People’s Republic that controls the area.
Up to 200 investigators and other experts of the JIT have worked on the case and currently, on a daily basis almost 100 investigators, public prosecutors and other experts are still working on the case.
The report added: “During the past two years, dozens of containers with thousands of wreckage parts were examined in detail, piece by piece. Of those parts, 1448 were processed in a databank as being relevant to the investigation. Sixty requests for legal assistance were sent to more than 20 countries and we received reactions on many of them. Twenty weapon systems were examined.
“Five billion internet pages were recorded and assessed for their relevant content. Half a million videos and photographs were examined in detail and saved, and more than 200 witnesses were heard.
“In addition, approximately 150.000 intercepted telephone calls were listened in on, summarised and assessed for their relevance and authenticity. After this, more than 3500 intercepted conversations were processed entirely, translated and analysed.”
The report’s conclusions are clear.
It found that there was no other aircraft flying in the vicinity of flight MH17 that could have shot it down, and that it was in fact fired on by a ground-based BUK missile system manufactured in Russia, from a site in Russian-separatist controlled eastern Ukraine.
Even more revealing, it concluded that the separatists had earlier requested the BUK missile from Russia, as they wanted to shoot down Ukrainian military aircraft operating against them. It had determined from both radio and telephone intercepts and eyewitness testimony that the BUK missile system was brought into Ukraine from the Russian Federation and, after the downing of MH17, hastily returned to Russia.
The report said that although investigators had not yet determined who was responsible for the downing of MH17, “we have identified approximately 100 persons who in one way or another can be linked to the crash of flight MH17 or the transport of the BUK.
“We have been able to establish the identity of these 100 persons, whom we found through different sources such as intercepted telephone conversations and witness statements.”
Australia plays an important part in this investigation, which is necessary for both the families of victims of this tragedy, and to enhance the safety of air travel internationally, by ensuring that civilian aircraft never fly over war zones.