Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 investigators: Possible surface-to-air missile parts found in Ukraine
UKRAINE — Authorities investigating last year’s downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine are examining what could be surface-to-air missile parts that were found in the area, a Dutch-led prosecution team said Tuesday.
The parts possibly come from a Russian-made Buk surface-to-air-missile system — the type of system that the case’s lead prosecutor already has said is suspected to have downed the plane.
But the prosecutors warned that no conclusion could yet be drawn that the discovered parts have a causal connection to the MH17 crash.
“The parts are of particular interest to the criminal investigation as they can possibly provide more information about who was involved in the crash of MH17,” reads a statement released by the Joint Investigation Team, the international group of prosecutors leading the criminal investigation.
The Boeing 777 was heading from Amsterdam to Malaysia when it was shot down on July 17, 2014, over Ukrainian territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists. All 298 people on board were killed.
Disputes over who is responsible for the disaster have helped to sour relations between Moscow and the West.
Several Western nations and the Ukrainian government have accused pro-Russian separatists operating in the region of shooting down the plane with a missile.
Rebel leaders and the Russian government have repeatedly disputed those allegations, and have suggested instead that Ukrainian forces shot the plane down with either a surface-to-air missile or one of their own fighter jets.
Even before the MH17 disaster, Western nations accused Russia of supplying the rebels in Ukraine. The United States and the European Union imposed sanctions against Russia last year to punish it for this and its annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.
Last month, the JIT’s lead prosecutor, Fred Westerbeke of the Netherlands, told CNN that evidence gathered so far indicated the plane was hit by a Buk missile fired from eastern Ukraine.
Westerbeke did not comment on who might have fired the missile or elaborate on the evidence.
The Dutch transportation safety board, conducting a separate investigation, went further in a draft report, which said that evidence indicated that pro-Russian rebels shot down MH17 with a Russian-made Buk missile, a source who saw the document told CNN last month.
The criminal probe is expected to produce a report by the end of the year, while the safety board’s report is due in October.