Investigators from the international Joint Investigation Team (JIT) have identified the missile used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine in 2014. The five-nation team says the Buk missile belonged to a part of the Russian armed forces and was fired from a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists. The plane crash killed all 298 crew and passengers onboard.
At a news conference in the Netherlands on Thursday, the Dutch-led team unveiled a simulation showing the path of Buk that they say originated from Russia’s 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade, consisting of three battalions with a few hundred people working in 2014. In 2016, the team confirmed two parts of the missile that contained the venturi – a system that emits exhaust – and the engine casing were found in eastern Ukraine. The missile engine casing showed the number 9 д 1318869032 – a code investigators say indicates the missile was produced in Moscow in 1986. The damage pattern on the wreckage, as well as fragments of shrapnel and traces of paint on missile fragments, further helped to identify the weapon system used.
The team then analyzed a number of characteristics from Ukrainian and Russian images of Buk. When combined, these specific characteristics “can be considered as a fingerprint” – this one matched the one that joined the 53rd brigade on June 23-25 in 2014, just shy of three weeks before MH17 was shot down.
In 2016, the investigative team identified approximately 100 people who could potentially be linked. Now, they’ve narrowed it to several dozen. How actively they were involved is still the question. Previously released footage shows a simulation of the missile’s trajectory to establish where it exploded. Investigators say the missile system was transported across Russia’s border to Ukraine. In the past, the Russian government has denied claims that Russian military forces and equipment were used across the Ukraine border.
Chief prosecutor Fred Westerbeke now asks the public for assistance in providing information. Officials are “convinced that many people have this information.”
Two days earlier, families of the victims wrote an open letter to the Russian government, saying “we do not blame the Russian people for what happened” despite “all the credible evidence point[ing] in that direction.”
MH17 was a scheduled passenger flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and was traveling over conflict-hit Ukraine when it was struck down. The Dutch Safety Board says a missile exploded just above and to the left of the cockpit, causing the plane to explode in mid-air.