A report by international investigators has confirmed that Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was hit by a Buk Russian-made missile. Victims' families are now demanding to find out who was responsible for its launch.
Speaking from the Gilze-Rijen airbase in the Netherlands on Tuesday, Dutch Safety Board chairman Tjibbe Joustra presented the findings of an international investigation into the crash of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 on July 17, 2014.
"MH17 crashed because a missile was detonated on the exterior of the left side of the airplane," Joustra said, adding that it was launched from somewhere within an area of 320 sq km in eastern Ukraine.
The airliner crashed en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur killing all 298 people on board, most of whom were Dutch citizens. The aircraft was flying over rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine at the time of the incident.
According to the investigation, 160 commercial flights flew over the area where the Ukraine conflict was taking place on the day of the MH17 crash. Almost all operators were flying over the conflict zone as "nobody thought civil aviation was at risk," Joustra said.
The Dutch Safety Board chief said the report also concluded that there was sufficient evidence to close the airspace above eastern Ukraine "as a precaution" - a measure which the Ukrainian government failed to implement.
Families of the victims were also told that passengers and crew were likely to have lost consciousness upon the missile's impact.
"The Dutch Safety Board deems it likely that the occupants were barely able to comprehend the situation in which they found themselves," the report read, adding that it was unlikely "occupants performed conscious actions after the impact."
For those left behind, the question still to be answered is who is responsible for having launched the Buk missile.
Ukraine and Western countries continue to argue that the missile was fired by Russian troops or Russian-backed separatists.
Speaking from The Hague on Tuesday, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the Safety Board report was an "important building block" in the separate criminal investigation into the culpability of the crash, and called for patience in its progress.
"Our priority now is to find the perpetrators and prosecute them," Rutte said, adding that it would be "premature" to say anything about the involvement of Russia.
Russian investigation contradicts Dutch probe
A Russian state-controlled Buk missile-maker refuted the finding of the Dutch probe on Tuesday, however.
Speaking at a news conference, the head of the Russian Almaz-Antey concern, Yan Novikov, said the Russian report shows that if flight MH17 was hit by a Buk missile, it was fired from the village of Zaroshenske, which Russia says was under Ukrainian government control at the time.
The chief of the missile manufacturer also said that according to the results of an experiment held in July, the model of missile used could also have been much older than previously thought.
That information was presented to the Dutch investigators, but was not taken into account, Novikov claimed.
ksb/kms (Reuters, AFP, AP)