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Leaked MH17 Draft Report Blames Pro-Russian Rebels


Emergency workers search for bodies at the crash site of Malaysian Airliner MH17, which was downed on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 on board.

The Dutch Safety Board's draft investigative report on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 blames pro-Russian separatists for shooting down the Boeing 777 nearly a year ago, killing all 298 passengers and crew members, according to a CNN report.

The secret draft report is several hundred pages long.

On June 2, it was distributed for review to agencies and other accredited representatives in the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team -- including the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration, and Boeing.

Other members of the investigating team are from Malaysia, Australia, Belgium, Russia, and Ukraine.

The recipients of the secret draft report have until August 1 to submit comments.

The Dutch Safety Board will then draw up its definitive final report, which is expected to be released in October.

On July 16, a day before the first anniversary of the tragedy, CNN revealed details from sources who have seen the draft.

Two sources told CNN the Dutch-led investigators concluded that MH17 was shot down by a Russian surface-to-air Buk missile fired from a village in separatist-controlled territory of eastern Ukraine.

Both sources said the Dutch Safety Board also puts some blame on Malaysia Airlines for dispatching the plane over the conflict zone en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

They said investigators faulted the airline for not reading other countries' warning notices to airmen, known as NOTAMs, that might have steered them away from airspace over the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The Dutch Safety Board says it will not comment on its "confidential draft final report."

A Russian Buk-1M air-defense missile system
A Russian Buk-1M air-defense missile system

In Washington, both the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration refused to comment on the investigation or on the leaked findings.

In their preliminary report released in September, the Dutch-led investigators announced that the plane's fuselage had been pierced from the outside by a large number of "high-energy objects."

Those findings were consistent with a fragmentation warhead like the one carried by a Buk antiaircraft missile.

Fred Westerbeke of the Dutch National Prosecutors Office told reporters in September that MH17 "most likely" had been shot down from the ground.

A pro-Russian separatist officer told AP after the disaster that the plane had been shot down by a mixed team of separatists and Russian military personnel who thought they were targeting a Ukrainian military plane.

Audio recordings of intercepted phone conversations between the separatists that were released by the Ukrainian government support that version of events.

Westerbeke warned that the difficulties of carrying out an investigation in a conflict zone like eastern Ukraine meant that a suspect may never be identified and brought to trial.

Igor Girkin
Igor Girkin

But on July 15, a lawsuit filed in a U.S. court accused Igor Girkin, the former commander of pro-Russian separatist forces in eastern Ukraine known as "Strelkov," of orchestrating the shoot-down.

Filed in Chicago, the lawsuit also alleges that Girkin acted with the blessings of the Kremlin when his forces fired at the Boeing 777.

Lawyer Floyd Wisner is using the U.S. Torture Victim Protection Act, which can be used against foreign nationals, to bring the case against Girkin in a U.S. court.

The lawsuit seeks $900 million for families of 18 MH17 passengers.

Wisner said the case "is not about money. It is about getting answers from Girkin and putting pressure on Russia to cooperate" with an international tribunal to bring criminal charges against those responsible.

Malaysia and other countries participating in the Joint Investigation Team have been pushing for the establishment of a UN-mandated international tribunal that would prosecute those who are accused of shooting down the plane.

But Russia said on July 9 that it would oppose a UN Security Council resolution to establish such a tribunal.

On July 16, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in a telephone call that setting up a UN tribunal would be “premature” and “counterproductive.”

Rutte has said that a UN tribunal would give "the best guarantee of cooperation from all countries" in seeking justice for the families of the victims, many of whom were Dutch citizens.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on July 11 in Kuala Lumpur that investigators are "really close to naming those guilty."

He also called "on all nations concerned to provide the fullest cooperation, so that we will be able to gather irrefutable evidence as to what happened -- and especially as to who were responsible for this unforgivable incident."

With reporting by CNN, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Telegraph, and The Guardian
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