14 Oct 2015

MH17 was shot down by Russian-made missile

8:20 am on 14 October 2015

Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down over war-torn eastern Ukraine by a Russian-made Buk missile, the Dutch Safety Board says.

The wrecked cockipt of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is exhibited during a presentation of the final report on the cause of the its crash at the Gilze-Rijen Air Base on 13 October 2015.

The wrecked cockipt of MH17 was exhibited during the presentation of the final report on the cause of its crash, at the Gilze-Rijen Air Base on 13 October 2015. Photo: AFP

The plane was blown out of the sky in July 2014, killing 298 people, including two New Zealanders.

The board released its final report on Tuesday, first to the victims' relatives and then to reporters at a news conference at the Gilze-Rijen Air Base in the Netherlands.

The long-awaited findings of the board, which was not empowered to address questions of responsibility, did not specify who launched the missile.

The West and Ukraine have said Russian-backed rebels brought down the Boeing 777. But Russia has claimed a missile was fired from Ukrainian-controlled territory.

The report does not say who fired the missile, but says airspace over eastern Ukraine should have been closed.

The plane - flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur - crashed at the height of the conflict between government troops and pro-Russian separatists.

Relatives of some of those who died were told victims would have lost consciousness almost immediately, the BBC reported.

The board found the missile hit the front left of the plane, as a result of which part of the plane broke off.

The plane, which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed in rebel-held eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014 at the height of the conflict between government troops and the pro-Russian separatists. The victims included 196 Dutch nationals.

A separate Dutch-led criminal investigation is under way.

The report says the three crew members in the cockpit were killed by the missile explosion instantly.

However, it adds, it was unclear at which point the others died, and the possibility of some remaining conscious for some time during the one-and-a-half minutes it took for the plane to go down could not be ruled out.

Wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, on 18 July 2014 in eastern Ukraine, a day after the plane came down.

Wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, on 18 July 2014 in eastern Ukraine, a day after the plane came down. Photo: AFP

Wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine, a week after the plane came down.

Flowers are placed on the wreckage a week after the crash. Photo: AFP

Board president Djibbe Joustra said the impact pattern could not have been caused by a meteor, an air-to-air missile or an internal explosion.

Instead, he said, a warhead carried by a surface-to-air missile had detonated above the left-hand side of the cockpit, causing structural damage.

Mr Joustra said the missile was a Buk - which experts say both Russian and Ukrainian armies possess.

He added that paint had been found on metal fragments within the plane that matched with missile fragments on the ground.

Mr Joustra also said there had been sufficient reason to close off Ukrainian airspace but Ukraine did not do that - and on the day of the crash, 160 flights flew over the area in question.

The board does not have the authority to apportion blame, under the rules governing international crash investigations.

But speaking to reporters after the news conference, Mr Joustra said pro-Russian rebels were in charge of the area from where the missile that hit MH17 had been fired.

The government in Ukraine and several Western officials have said the missile was brought from Russia into the rebel-held part of Ukraine.

International reactions

  • Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte urged Russia to co-operate in the investigation, saying "the priority now is to find and pursue those who are responsible"
  • Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk says he had "no doubt" that the crash was "a planned operation of the Russian special services"
  • The White House said the US would "fully support all efforts to bring to justice those responsible"
  • Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov called the Dutch crash investigation "biased in nature" and said Russia was "ready to present its own information"
  • Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said his government's "commitment to bringing the perpetrators to justice remains as strong as it was on that fateful day 17 July 2014"
  • Eduard Basurin, deputy defence minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine, said rebel forces "did not have a Buk anti-air defence system at that time"

Report 'wrong'

Earlier, Russian officials from Almaz-Antey - the state firm that manufactures Buk missiles - said the evidence suggested the plane had been shot down by a Buk missile fired by Ukrainian forces.

Using their own simulation, the officials said the missile had been fired from Zaroshchenke in Ukrainian-controlled territory, some 10km away from the area highlighted by the Dutch report.

They argued the missile used was a decades-old model no longer used by Russian forces.

In July, Russia vetoed a draft resolution at the UN Security Council to set up an international tribunal into the MH17 air disaster.

President Vladimir Putin said at the time that such a tribunal would be "premature" and "counterproductive".

- Reuters / BBC

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