Dutch Prosecutors: Fragments May be From Russian Missile

Ukraine jet crash

Photo courtesy of Reuters

Dutch Prosecutors: Fragments May be From Russian Missile
| published August 12, 2015 |

By Thursday Review staff

Dutch investigators and prosecutors are telling the world what almost everyone already knows: some small fragments of debris found among the wreckage of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 are pieces of a Russian-made missile, the one which Ukrainian and Dutch authorities believe was fired from a ground-launched rocket system from rebel controlled areas in southeastern Ukraine.

The Boeing 777 crashed in remote fields in the Donetsk Oblast on July 17, 2014, killing 298 people—passengers and crew—many of whom were citizens of The Netherlands travelling on vacation to Asia. Russia has consistently denied that the passenger airliner was shot down by the pro-Moscow militants or by a Russian weapons system.

Reuters is reporting that Dutch and international prosecutors will collaborate with weapons and ordnance experts, as well as metallurgy experts, to make a much closer analysis of the fragments believed to have come from a missile. Prosecutors released a statement this week saying that the parts likely originated “from a Buk surface-to-air missile system.”

Both independent analysis and careful satellite imagery analysis by U.S., British and Ukrainian intelligence teams have verified that the pro-Russian rebels were in control of a Buk rocket-launching system on July 17, 2014, as fierce battles raged in Donbass and surrounding areas. Kiev has analyzed radio traffic and digital transmissions between rebel forces and commanders, and has been able to confirm that orders were given in the field to fire the missile only seconds before MH17 was struck and its debris rained down in fields near the towns of Hrabove and Torez.

The Netherlands introduced a proposal last month in the United Nations requesting the formation of an international investigation and tribunal to bring justice to those who brought down the plane, but Russia vetoed that proposal in a Security Council vote. International teams and panels of prosecutors from various countries—Malaysia, Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ukraine, and New Zealand—will still proceed with their investigations, though without U.N. cooperation it is not clear that a criminal trial will ever be possible.

Earlier this year, several independent investigations concluded that there was a fair probability that Russian commanders across the border in western Russia may have directed the rebel groups in the firing of the missile system. Officially, no governments have endorsed that view, though almost all investigations point to the Buk missile launcher and its Gadfly rocket as the device which fired upon the Boeing 777. Civilian eyewitnesses on the ground in the area of the Donetsk Oblast, near where the heaviest fighting was taking place that week, say that they saw a rocket system being moved toward the battlefield earlier on the same day that MH17 was shot down.

This week the Dutch Safety Board plans to examine a reconstruction of the remains of the plane, an extensive forensic task being conducted at an air force base in The Netherlands.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Did Russian Troops Fire the Fatal Missile?; Thursday Review; March 22, 2015.

Kiev Says Russian Troops Crossing Border; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; February 21, 2015.