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Investigators: Buk Missile From Russian Antiaircraft Brigade Downed MH17


Dutch Prosecutor Says Closing In On MH17 Perpetrators
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A Dutch-led international criminal investigation has concluded that the Buk missile that shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine in 2014 came from Russia's 53rd Antiaircraft Missile Brigade.

The Joint Investigative Team (JIT), comprising authorities from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands, and Ukraine, made the announcement at a press conference on May 24 in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

MH17 was shot down over the conflict zone in Ukraine's Donetsk region on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 people on board.

The JIT "has come to the conclusion that the Buk-TELAR that shot down MH17 came from the 53rd Antiaircraft Missile Brigade based in Kursk in Russia," top Dutch investigator Wilbert Paulissen told reporters. "The 53rd Brigade is part of Russia's armed forces."

ALSO READ: Linking MH17 To Russia's 53rd Brigade

Chief Dutch Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said the team came to the conclusion that Russian weapons were used despite getting no cooperation from Moscow.

"The Russian Federation didn't help us in providing us the information we brought out into the open today," Westerbeke said. "They didn't give us this information, although a Buk from their military forces was used."

Following the JIT news conference, Russia's Defense Ministry reiterated it had nothing to do with the downing of the plane.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the findings were based on "fake data" presented by bloggers and that Moscow's information regarding the case was largely ignored.

"This is an example of baseless accusations aimed at discrediting our country in the eyes of the international community," the ministry said in a statement.

The U.S. State Department said that the United States had "complete confidence" in the findings and called on Russia to admit its involvement.

"It is time for Russia to cease its lies and account for its role in the shoot-down," U.S. spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the global community should be concerned about Russia's involvement in an attack that killed so many people.

"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. We are discussing these findings with our partners and considering our options," she said in a statement.

Of the 298 people killed, 196 were Dutch, 42 were Malaysian, and 27 were Australian.

Ultimately, any suspects identified and charged will be prosecuted in Dutch courts -- if they can be arrested and brought to trial.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said in a Facebook post that he would "do everything possible to ensure that the actions of the Russian Federation as a state which supports terrorism get an appropriate assessment" in the International Court of Justice.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte decided to shorten his visit to India by a day and join cabinet talks on May 25 about the new findings, Dutch news agency ANP reported.

Bellingcat, a British-based team of open-source researchers investigating the crash, had already identified the 53rd Antiaircraft Missile Brigade as being the likely source of the missile that investigators say brought down the jet.

It is due to hold a press conference in The Hague on May 25 for the launch of a new report on the probe.

Russia denies interfering in Ukraine's internal affairs, despite compelling evidence that Moscow has provided military, economic, and political support to separatists fighting against Kyiv. Russia and the separatists deny shooting down MH17 and have offered several other theories to explain the incident, all of which have been rejected by investigators.

WATCH -- The Downing Of MH17: What Happened?

The Downing Of MH17: What Happened?
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The JIT determined in 2016 that MH17 was shot down from separatist-held territory in the Donetsk region by a Buk antiaircraft system provided by the Russian military. The JIT report says the Buk entered Ukraine near Krasnodon and was spirited back into Russia immediately after the airliner was shot down.

The Bellingcat investigation, conducted jointly with the independent Russian website The Insider, said in December it had identified a senior Russian general as a figure of interest in the downing of the airliner.

TIMELINE: Milestones In The MH17 Investigation (click to view)

The Bellingcat investigative group -- which uses sophisticated digital techniques to analyze open-source audio and visual data -- alleged that a man identified on intercepted communications as Delfin (Dolphin) is retired Russian Colonel General Nikolai Tkachyov, who is currently serving as the chief inspector of Russia's Central Military District.

Tkachyov denied that he was Delfin or that he was in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

With reporting by Interfax, Reuters, and AFP
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