Russia Downplays Dutch-Led Investigation Into the Downing of MH17

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An worldwide team of investigators said on Thursday that a Russian military missile system was responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine almost four years ago.

The worldwide team running the criminal investigation appealed for help from witnesses who can testify about the involvement of the Russian military's 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade based in the city of Kursk.

Worldwide investigators say a Russian convoy carried Buk missile into Ukraine before shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17; Benjamin Hall reports.

Prime minister Mark Rutte is flying back from a trade mission to India a day early to discuss the new findings about the downing of flight MH17 with the rest of the cabinet on Friday.

Flight MH17 was shot down over a conflict zone in Ukraine's Donetsk region on July 17, 2014, as the Boeing 777 was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Responding to the latest findings, the Russian defense ministry said not a single Russian missile system had ever crossed its border with Ukraine, state-owned TASS news agency reported.

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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's foreign ministry said the investigation's outcome "causes us regret".

Chief Dutch Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said the team came to the conclusion that Russian weapons were used despite getting no cooperation from Moscow.

He restated the JIT's conclusion that the plane had been destroyed by a Russian-made Buk missile, adding that it had been supplied by the country's 53rd anti-aircraft brigade in Kursk.

Investigators displayed parts of the engine casing and exhaust system of a Buk 9M38 series missile recovered from eastern Ukraine and showed photos of its serial number, which they said demonstrated it was made in Moscow.

A fragment from Malaysian Airlines flight 17 is seen at a crash site in Hrabove (Grabovo), Ukraine, Sept. 9, 2014.

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"The investigation hasn't specifically named names, but it is clear from what they have been saying today that they are pointing the blame today at the Russian military itself", he said.

"The possibility that Russian Federation would extradite or allow its citizens who are suspected of participating in the destruction of the plane, to participate in an global investigation seems very, very unlikely", said Andrew Foxall, head of the Russian Federation program at policy analyst group The Henry Jackson Society.

Investigators have been working to determine whether Russian troops shot the missile or whether it was Ukrainian rebels to whom the antiaircraft system had been supplied. The Russian government has consistently denied involvement in the incident.

In a written statement, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told the Associated Press: "That a sophisticated weapon belonging to the Russian Army was dispatched and used to shoot down a civilian aircraft should be of grave global concern".

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the global community should be concerned about Russia's involvement in an attack that killed so many people.

Dutch prosecutors said in September 2016 that 100 "persons of interest" had been identified in the investigation; on Thursday the team said the list of possible suspects has been reduced to several dozen.

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