Strong evidence found of separatist involvement in downing of MH17

Visitors look at a Russian Buk missile system (L) during a military exhibition marking the 150th anniversary of the Western Military District, at the Dvortsovaya Square in St. Petersburg, Russia, 22 August 2014. Photo: Anatoly Maltsev/EPA

Flight MH17 seems to have been shot down with a BUK-missile launched by separatists from Ukraine. At least, this is the main scenario that’s being considered by the international investigation team researching the cause of the crash on the afternoon of July 17th, last year.

New video and audio footage were released by the so called Joint Investigation Team (JIT), in which police and public prosecutors from Belgium, Australia, Ukraine, Malaysia and the Netherlands work in tight cooperation to bring the perpetrators of the attack on MH17 to justice.

Footage released by the investigators:

The team is looking for witnesses who can provide more information on the transport of the BUK-missile system by a group of separatists called Bibliotekar. Based on the information of the investigators, this BUK-missile system was spotted several times, shortly before and after the crash. The BUK-missile was transported on a Volvo-truck, confiscated later on. The truck arrived in the region on the morning of the crash.

During that day, the missile system was transported to Torez, which is not far from the crash site.

‘Another truck is coming in from Russia’

The evening of the crash, the separatists discussed where to take the BUK-missile. “It’s at the checkpoint”, one of them said during one of the telephone conversations that were bugged by the Ukrainian Intelligence Service. Some critics claim that these tapes could be fake, but according to the Dutch public prosecutor the audio footage is genuine. A phone conversation between separatists on the morning of July 18th suggests that by that time, the BUK-missile had been taken to Russia. “Yesterday was a mess”, the first separatist said. The other said: “The truck is in Russia.” The first separatist responded: “Shit, yesterday I just said I had no idea.”

Twenty minutes later, in another telephone conversation, the separatists speak about “a disaster”. It is mentioned that the Bibliotekar separatists have “another truck coming in from Russia.”

Other scenario

The Dutch public prosecution underlines that, despite the release of this information, there is still no irrefutable proof that explains the crash. “It is too early to be drawing any conclusions regarding the cause of the crash.” The investigation team is researching another scenario, in which MH17 was the target of an airborne assault. Two other scenarios, a terrorist attack and technical failure, have been ruled out.

Witness protection

Through websites, social and news media, witnesses are called to provide information on the missile system’s transport, its crew and the launching of the missile. If witnesses fear for their safety they can receive protection, as is stated on the JIT’s website, www.jitmh17.com.

The Boeing 777 crashed on Thursday July 17th at 4:20 pm while flying over eastern Ukraine. All 298 people on board died, 196 of whom were Dutch. The remains of two people have not been recovered yet. Earlier, the Safety Board investigating the facts about the crash determined that the aircraft had been broken into pieces, “by a large amount of objects piercing the aircraft at a high speed.”

Since the very first reports on the crash, a BUK-missile attack was frequently mentioned as the most likely cause. A few hours before the attack, the launcher was seen close to the spot from where locals saw and heard a missile lift off later on. The missile’s smoke trail was photographed from Torez and the electronic communication between the missile and its launcher was supposedly registered as well. Investigation team Bellingcat found clues that the launcher had come from Russia.

Jeroen Akkermans, a journalist working for the Dutch broadcasting company RTL, found tiny shrapnels at the crash site, at least one of which is traceable to a BUK-missile. The metal strongly resembles a piece of the fragmentation mantle of a BUK-warhead.

(Translation by Welmoed Smith)