New MH17 Findings Say Missile Was 'Driven From Russia'
Tapped phone calls and images posted on social media helped investigators determine that missiles were driven from Russia into eastern Ukraine before one was fired and downed flight MH17 with the loss of 298 lives.
Among those who died after the Russian-made BUK surface-to-air missile exploded next to Malaysian Airlines flight 17 on July 17, 2014, were 38 Australian residents, while around two thirds of the passengers were Dutch.
Families of the victims heard evidence on Wednesday from the Dutch-led international team of investigators, including Australians, at Nieuwegein in the Netherlands.
Dutch chief prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said around 100 people had been identified as linked to the transport and firing of the missile.
He said the Joint Investigation Team was fully confident that "good investigation" would lead to tracing and prosecuting the key perpetrators among those 100.
Mr Westerbeke said it was "realistic" in answering whether the launcher crew took their own decision to fire the missile or "did they take instructions from above".
Dutch head of criminal investigation, Wilbert Paulissen outlined in detail how tapped phone calls of Russian-speaking operatives in rebel-held territory helped investigators determine the track of the missile launcher by truck from Russia into the war zone.
Social media posted by locals also included photos and videos of the launcher under a camouflage net being transported on a white Volvo truck before it was unloaded and driven to a field near the village of Snizhne.
Witnesses also gave evidence about the launcher's journey and the firing of the BUK 9M-38 series missile, including reports of a loud bang and images of a long smoke trail in the sky.
On tapped phone calls provided by Ukrainain security authorities, men on the rebel side can be heard talking of the need for anti-aircraft missiles to defend against Ukrainian air attacks, amidst a lot of expletives.
A later phone tap heard talk of the airliner crash and an admission that "it was our territory for sure".
Above: A screenshot of a computerised video obtained from the Joint Investigation Team on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016 of a ball of twisted metal from a missile from the 9M38 BUK series found in a groove of one of the cockpit windows of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17), which was shot down over Ukraine on July 17, 2014.
Satellite images from the European Space Agency and information from US authorities also helped investigators piece together the chain of events.
One satellite image showed a charred section of field where investigators believe the missile was fired from before the launcher with three missiles still aboard was rushed back across the Russian border the next day.
"We have no doubt whatsoever that the evidence we are presenting today is accurate," Mr Paulissen said.
Dutchman Dennis Schouten, who lost his brother-in-law, said the very thoroughly gathered evidence showed that "the Russian federation is now a part of this crime".
"The people who were responsible for this tragedy, I think they cannot hide forever."
Russia has consistently rejected allegations that a Russian unit or rebels fired the missile and on Monday the Russian military said radio-location data showed it was not fired from rebel-held positions.
Moscow has suggested the plane was brought down by the Ukrainian military, which is also equipped with BUK missiles.
Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Ian McCartney said after Wednesday's briefings that Australia remained committed to seeing justice done for the victims and their families.
In a statement Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the findings showed the investigation had made significant progress and the countries involved - Australia, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Ukraine and Belgium - were united in their resolve to ensure those responsible were held to account.
"While we cannot take away the grief of those who lost their loved ones that day, we can do everything possible to ensure justice is done independently, fairly and transparently."