After a 15 month investigation into the destruction of a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 plane which was downed over Ukraine, the Dutch Safety Board presented a final report on Thursday indicating that the plane was downed by a Russian-made BUK missile.
Safety Board director Tjibbe Joustra presented the latest findings on the cause of the incident to the families of the victims and media reporters at the Gilze-Rjen military base in the Netherlands.
Dutch investigators said hundreds of metal fragments were found in bodies of some crew members and in debris as well as traces of explosives.
The report said, “The shape and form of the parts recovered is consistent with a 9M38 series surface-to-air missile.”
However, the report did not specify who launched the missile, with Wim Van der Weegen telling media before the conference that the inspectors were “not interested in liability or blame.” He also stated that the findings could lead to seperate criminal probes.
A criminal report on the incident will be released in 2016.
After the Dutch Investigator’s conference a statement was released by an international team of prosecutors conducting a criminal investigation into the crash. The group said on Tuesday it had identified "persons of interest" in connection to the incident but did not give any names.
The White House called the final report on MH17 a "milestone" in a statement.
National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said, "The United States will fully support all efforts to bring to justice those responsible. Our assessment is unchanged - MH17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile fired from separatist-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine. The victims and their loved ones remain in our thoughts and prayers."
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has called on Russia to show full coorporation with the criminal investigation to determine who is responsible for attacking Boeing 777.
The families of victims said investigators told them that plane was hit by a BUK missile and the first part to be destroyed was the cockpit. The Dutch Safety Board also said at first that the victims of the incident would have instantly lost consciousness and would not have suffered. However, ater the report was released it said it could not be ruled out that some occupants remained conscious for some time during the one to one and a half minutes during which the crash took place and the impact of the missile was immediately fatal only to those in the cockpit.
Dutch Safety Board’s MH17 reports have been published. Find all reports, the video here. http://t.co/XBFHLhlBYM
— Onderzoeksraad (@Onderzoeksraad) October 13, 2015
Russian state arms producer Almaz-Antey has released a seperate report. Two videos of the expreriments Almaz-Anthey conducted were released on Thursday simulating explosions near MH17.
According to the findings of the arms producer, the missile which hit the Boeing 777 was an older BUK model 9M38 and was fired from an area held by Ukrainian forces, contrary to the preliminary findings of the Dutch Safety Board.
The preliminary findings of the DBS suggested the plane was “pierced at high velocity” in midair when it was hit by “numerous high-energy objects from outside the aircraft."
Ukraine and Western countries have accused Russian-backed rebels of downing the aircraft. Experts say the plane targeted in the Donetsk rebel-held part of Ukraine could have been mistaken for a Ukranian military plane.
During a government meeting before the conference held by the Dutch Safety Board, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said he was sure Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine by Russian special forces because the misille could not have been operated by “drunken separists.”
"In our opinion it was carried out solely from territory controlled by Russian fighters and there is no doubt that drunken separatists are not able to operate Buk systems and this means these systems were operated solely by professional Russian soldiers," he said.
In light of a report revealed in August 2015, the board has said parts were found at the crash site that could belong to the Russian missile system.
The flight MH17 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur disappeared off the radar at 13:20 GMT on 17 July 2014, after the plane crashed in eastern Ukraine.
There were 193 Dutch citizens as well as several Malaysian, Australian, Indonesian, British people among the 298 passengers killed in the crash.
Spokesman for the Dutch Safety Board. Wim van der Weegen. has said the latest report aims to “draw lessons to prevent similar accidents in the future.”
Video investigation crash flight MH17 (English spoken) (± 20 minutes) https://t.co/RMlESqAK7E
— Onderzoeksraad (@Onderzoeksraad) October 13, 2015
A United Nations resolution to create an international tribunal to prosecute the perpetrators of the incident was vetoed by Russia in July.
The report will help resolve the situation and expose the facts, former UK ambassador Jeremy Greenstock said prior to its release.
"It will lower Russian credibility and reduce Russia's image globally. It's all very well being clever, shrill and powerful at particular moments, but you've got to see where the long-term trends are going, and they're not in Russia's favour," he said.