A Dutch-led international criminal investigation has concluded that the Buk missile that shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine in 2014 came from Russia’s 53rd Antiaircraft Missile Brigade.
The Joint Investigative Team (JIT), comprising authorities from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands, and Ukraine, made the announcement at a press conference on May 24 in Utrecht, the Netherlands.
MH17 was shot down over the conflict zone in Ukraine’s Donetsk region on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 people on board.
The JIT “has come to the conclusion that the Buk-TELAR that shot down MH17 came from the 53rd Antiaircraft Missile Brigade based in Kursk in Russia,” top Dutch investigator Wilbert Paulissen said. “The 53rd Brigade is part of Russia’s armed forces.”
Bellingcat, a British-based team of open-source researchers investigating the crash, had already identified the 53rd Antiaircraft Missile Brigade as being the likely source of the missile that investigators say brought down the jet.
Russia denies interfering in Ukraine’s internal affairs, despite compelling evidence that Moscow has provided military, economic, and political support to separatists fighting against Kyiv. Russia and the separatists deny shooting down MH17 and have offered several other theories to explain the incident, all of which have been rejected by investigators.
The JIT determined in 2016 that MH17 was shot down from separatist-held territory in the Donetsk region by a Buk antiaircraft system provided by the Russian military. The JIT report says the Buk entered Ukraine near Krasnodon and was spirited back into Russia immediately after the airliner was shot down.
On May 25, Bellingcat is to hold a press conference in The Hague for the launch of a new report on the probe.
The Bellingcat investigation, conducted jointly with the independent Russian website The Insider, said in December it had identified a senior Russian general as a figure of interest in the downing of the airliner.
The Bellingcat investigative group — which uses sophisticated digital techniques to analyze open-source audio and visual data — alleged that a man identified on intercepted communications as Delfin (Dolphin) is retired Russian Colonel General Nikolai Tkachyov, who is currently serving as the chief inspector of Russia’s Central Military District.
Tkachyov denied that he was Delfin or that he was in eastern Ukraine in 2014.