Dutch say debris at MH17 crash site came from Russian missile

Investigators meet to prepare report

Personal belongings and luggage at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. Investigators have met to prepare their final report, due in October. Photograph: EPA/Anastasia Vlasov

Personal belongings and luggage at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. Investigators have met to prepare their final report, due in October. Photograph: EPA/Anastasia Vlasov

 

Air crash investigators from countries affected by the MH17 disaster have been meeting privately in the Netherlands to discuss their final report, due to be published in October – amid warnings from Russia that it is likely to have “a whole series of objections” to the findings.

The investigators are believed to have examined a reconstruction of the remains of the Boeing 777, pieced together on a giant frame using the sections of the jet taken to the Netherlands by road at the end of last year.

As the two-day meeting came to a close yesterday, the Dutch public prosecution department confirmed that fragments of debris recovered from the crash site in eastern Ukraine may have come from a Russian-made Buk surface-to- air missile.

Fragments origin

All 298 were killed when the Malaysian Airlines jet, en route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam, crashed in eastern Ukraine on July 17th, 2014.

A preliminary report into the cause of the catastrophe concluded last September that the plane was brought down by “a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from the outside”. It did not specify a missile or who might have fired it.

Aviation experts and western governments have accused pro-Russian rebels of shooting down the plane, possibly by mistake. Moscow insists it has evidence that it was hit by a missile fired by a Ukrainian air force jet.

In June, an initial draft of the final report by the Dutch-led investigation team was sent to Malaysia, Australia, the US, Britain, and Russia. All were given 60 days to respond to its findings. There has already been intense speculation and considerable disagreement about what that initial draft contained.

Buk missile

The investigators’ meeting was an attempt to expedite the tortuous process of completing the final report, by identifying the areas of common ground, and, more especially, areas in which there remains disagreement and uncertainty.

On that basis, yesterday’s new evidence of possible Buk fragments, while it does perhaps make pro-Russian separatist involvement seem more likely, does not, as the Dutch prosecution department spokesman pointed out, prove “a causal connection”.

One way or another, the most vocal criticism is likely to come from the Russian Aviation Authority, which says it disagrees fundamentally with the technical data on which the report is based – and so it generates more questions than answers.

“Our specialists have already developed a whole series of objections”, said a spokesman for the authority.