The Dutch Safety Board has officially concluded that Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by a Russian-made BUK missile fired from eastern Ukraine.
In a final report on the July 2014 disaster, which killed all 298 passengers and crew aboard MH17, Dutch authorities have said that the missile hit the front left cockpit, causing other parts of the plane to break off.
Tjibbe Joustra, head of the Safety Board, said those who survived the initial blast of the warhead were left unconscious within moments of the blast.
“A 9N314M warhead detonated outside the aeroplane to the left side of the cockpit. This fits the kind of warhead installed in the BUK surface-to-air missile system,” he said.
The report does not say who fired the missile; the West and Ukraine claim Russian-backed rebels were at fault, but Russia blame Ukrainian forces for bringing down the Boeing 777.
Authorities said the airline should have recognised the dangers of flying over the area; the board said the airspace should have been closed off by Ukrainian officials.
The place was en-route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur before it crashed over eastern Ukraine, killing 38 Australians on-board.
The Australian government has reiterated its commitment to see justice. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said a criminal investigation was being undertaken by Australia, Ukraine, Belgium, the Netherlands and Malaysia.
“We hope that there will be a finalisation of the investigation by the end of the year,” she said.
“Russia is seeking to discredit the investigation. It’s had some months to get its lines right… Russia’s protestations are not surprising, however we will not be deterred in our effort to gain justice.”
A criminal report is not expected to be released until next year, however, a statement released by the international team said that they had identified “persons of interest”.
Dr James Summers, director of the Centre for International Law and Human Rights at Lancaster University, said although more evidence needed to be collected by Dutch investigators, the report shows how MH17 was shot down.
“What they have established is the type of missile which was fired, which was the 9M314M BUK missile,” he said.
“This contradicts claims made by the BUK manufacturers and Russia that an older version of the BUK missile system was used.”
— Lisa Millar (@LisaMillar) October 13, 2015
In the report, the Safety Board said the weapon used was a 9N314M-model warhead carried on the 9M38M1 missile, with the fragments found being bow-tie or cube shaped.
Yan Novikov, the head of BUK missile company Almaz-Antey, said this evidence proved the BUK missile fired was held by Ukrainian forces, as the Russian army had phased out 9M38 type missiles containing “butterfly or bow-tie” fragments.
“The 9M38M1 missile has no H-shaped striking elements,” he said.
Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov has called the findings by the Dutch Safety Board “biased”, and believes it is being used to “carry out political orders”.
“It’s a source of regret that, despite all Russia’s repeated and lengthy attempts to organise the investigation in such a way that it is comprehensive and unbiased, and for it to consider all the information we have… there is an obvious attempt to draw a biased conclusion, and carry out political orders,” he said. – Josh Chahal
Top image of a recreation of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 from BBC News.