WHODUNIT

Investigators implicate Russia in the Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine, but the Kremlin says someone else did it

A reconstruction of the doomed plane.
A reconstruction of the doomed plane.
Image: Reuters/Michael Kooren
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A missile system that took down a Malaysia Airlines jet over Ukraine two years ago, killing 298 people, came from Russia and was returned there after the downing, according to a new report written by a multi-national team of prosecutors.

The finding, made by investigators from the Netherlands, Australia, Malaysia, Belgium, and Ukraine, advanced a Dutch Safety Board report a year ago. That report detailed the July 2014 destruction of the jet with a BUK mobile missile fired from Ukrainian territory held by Russian-backed militants. The updated report, released today, tracks the missile directly to and from Russia, using telephone intercepts and photographs. The board held a news conference to describe its findings.

Flight MH17 was a Boeing 777 jet flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Most of those aboard—193 passengers—were Dutch.

Since the jet went down, Russian and local media have produced an evolving narrative for what caused the crash, including that dead bodies were already aboard MH17, and were simply dropped onto Ukraine in a diabolical ruse to besmirch Russia. In response to the latest report, Russia directly contradicted one of its prior explanations.

Image for article titled Investigators implicate Russia in the Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine, but the Kremlin says someone else did it
Image: Daily Mail

In November 2014, Russia released this radar image, marked with an arrow and circle, that it said showed another jet flying extremely close to MH17, which it said could be responsible for the catastrophe.

On Sept. 26, Russia’s defense ministry released a different image that it said proved that there was nothing near the jet at all when it went down:

Spokesman for the Russian Defence Ministry, Major-General Igor Konashenkov (C) delivers a news conference dedicated to the crash of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane operating flight MH17, in Moscow, Russia, September 26, 2016.
Updated radar
Image: Reuters/Maxim Zmeyev

In a statement, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that in fact the plane was not hit by a rocket. And if there was one, someone else fired it.

“This whole story, unfortunately, is couched in a huge amount of speculation, unqualified and unprofessional information,” Peskov said. “The data are clear-cut. There is no rocket. If there was a rocket, it could only have been fired from elsewhere.”

Last year, BUK’s manufacturer conceded that one of its missiles took down the plane, but suggested that the Ukrainian government was responsible. In response to today’s Dutch report, Russian state-run RT television broadcasted reports attempting to show that such a projectile could not have inflicted the damage to the plane.