Missile that brought down MH17 belonged to Russian military, say investigators

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In 2016, investigators with the Joint Investigation Team - including representatives from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine - said a Russian Buk missile was sacked from a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

"The authorities of the Russian Federation have, up to now, not reported to the JIT that a Buk of the 53rd brigade was deployed in Eastern Ukraine and that this Buk downed flight MH17", Westerbeke said.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was downed by a missile fired by a Russia-based military unit, investigators have said.

"Moreover, a part of images used during the briefing and prepared by Ukraine's special services had been earlier demonstrated a couple of times by the pseudo-investigators from Bellingcat", the defense ministry said.

All 298 passengers and crew were killed, including 38 Australian residents.

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Today, investigators claim the missile system was part of Russia's 53rd anti-aircraft brigade. Kremlin-linked media outlets have floated a range of implausible theories suggesting Ukraine was responsible for shooting down the plane.

Fred Westerbeke, the chief prosecutor, said the investigation was in its last phase but could not say when he would be ready to file indictments. Dutch prosecutors said in 2016 they had identified 100 people of interest but did not reveal their identities. They now say they've narrowed their list to several dozen. "All the credible evidence points in that direction", the letter said. "We don't want to tell everything we know because then we are opening our cards to the other side and we do not want to do that", he told journalists.

The investigation is "still of the highest priority" but will take more time, given the difficulty of obtaining the necessary foreign military information and a lack of access to the investigation area in eastern Ukraine, he added.

The Russian defence ministry, in a statement carried by state media, rejected the JIT report, saying it had "brought the relevant evidence to the Dutch investigation team".

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the findings "should be of grave worldwide concern".

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Russia's Defense Ministry expressed its concern that "the Dutch investigation is focused on substantiating its conclusions by using only images from social networks that were skillfully edited by computer graphic aids". "How can they identify the fingerprints of an active serviceman?"

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He also said, according to CNN, that "this raises questions such as to whether the brigade was actively involved in downing MH17".

The plane left Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport on 17 July 2014 and was due to arrive at Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia on the following day. The Russian government has long denied direct involvement in the conflict.

Families of the victims meanwhile have penned an open letter to "the Russian people" speaking of their continued grief and heartache, even as Russia prepares to host the football World Cup.

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