Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 Was Shot Down by a Russian Missile, Say Investigators

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An emergency services worker photographs debris from an Air Malaysia plane crash on July 18, 2014, in Grabovka, Ukraine.Photo: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

On July 17, 2014, a surface-to-air missile shot from a field in eastern Ukraine tore into Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, downing the jet and killing all 298 people onboard. The missile launcher that fired it, known as a Buk, came from Russia, a team of Dutch-led prosecutors said Wednesday. Investigators also found that the launcher was brought back over the border to Russia after the attack.

Russia denies the finding. “This whole story, unfortunately, is couched in a huge amount of speculation, unqualified and unprofessional information,” said Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for President Vladimir Putin, in a statement. Russia also released radar images, ahead of the report, that it said show no missile near the airliner on the day of the crash. “If any missile had existed, it could have been fired only from another territory. I do not say which exactly territory it could be. It is specialists’ business.”

The Joint Investigation Team behind this inquiry is actually full of specialists, and their findings — which are based on intercepted phone calls, social media, witness testimony, and other evidence — build a pretty damning case that Russia is lying about its involvement and is fumbling its cover-up. The probe outlines the fairly quick chain of events: Moscow-backed separatists requested the Buk system for defense the night before the attack. A convoy smuggled the system across the border. The missile was launched from a field in separatist-held territory. Trucks delivered the missile system back across the Russian border after the carnage.

In October, the Dutch Safety Board made a similar determination tying Russia to the Buk surface-to-air missile. Yet this most recent report stems from a criminal investigation, so standards are higher. However, prosecutors stopped short of naming individuals, in either Ukraine or Russia, who might have helped orchestrate or carried out the attacks — and it’s still unclear who gave the order to fire on the plane.