European experts ask Trump to back new independent inquiry into MH17 crash

European experts ask Trump to back new independent inquiry into MH17 crash
A group of European journalists and aviation experts has sent an open letter to Donald Trump asking him to back a new UN-run investigation into the 2014 crash of Flight MH17. The current Dutch-led inquiry is “neither independent nor convincing,” they said.

The open letter, signed by 25 journalists, former civil aviation pilots and researchers from Germany, the Netherlands and Australia, was posted on the website of Joost Niemoller – a Dutch journalist who publicly challenged the current investigation into the ill-fated Flight MH17, which was downed over Ukraine in July 2014. 

With Trump having taken office as the new president of the United States, the letter says “there is now a real chance of resolving the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine,” and also “hope of improving the quality of the investigation into the alleged shooting down of the MH17.”

The experts suggested that the new investigation should include independent international researchers able to overcome governments’ reluctance to disclose information, and should be overseen by the United Nations. At the moment, Ukraine’s secret service (SBU) plays a major role in providing data to the Dutch investigators, while Russian investigators are being excluded from the process.

In September last year, the Dutch investigators said the aircraft was shot down with a missile from a Buk launch system that “was brought from the territory of the Russian Federation and after launch subsequently returned to the Russian Federation territory.” The investigation stopped short of accusing Russia directly, saying that “we have determined that the weapons came from the Russian Federation.”

Furthermore, the experts’ letter referred to former US Secretary of State John Kerry, who claimed in July 2014 that Washington possesses “satellite imagery” showing the trajectory of a surface-to-air missile from areas controlled by rebels in eastern Ukraine. The US should release the images or recognize that they never existed, the experts stressed.

Notably, the open letter calls for a forensic investigation into the impact holes on the fragments of the MH17 wreckage, and suggests the same damage patterns should be reproduced in a shooting test. Similar experiments have already been staged by Almaz Antey, Russia’s leading missile manufacturer, in July and October 2015, although their results were subsequently ignored by international investigators.

Almaz Antey's experts said that judging by the T-shape strike elements, the missile was an old Buk-M1 model fired from a Ukraine-controlled area, contesting the preliminary theory by Dutch investigators. “If the Malaysian Boeing was downed by a Buk missile, it was done with an old Buk model which does not have double-T iron strike elements,” CEO Yan Novikov told a media conference in Moscow after the experiment.

The new investigation proposed by Dutch, German and Australian experts should pave the way for “an international tribunal under the auspices of the UN,” the letter said, staffed with judges from countries that are not related to the disaster.

In 2015, speaking on MSNBC, Trump contested preliminary findings of the Dutch Safety Board (DSB), whose report alleged that the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 was hit by a surface-to-air missile launched by eastern Ukrainian rebels.

“It may have been their weapon, but they didn't use it, they didn't fire it, they even said the other side fired it to blame them,” Trump said. “I mean to be honest with you, you'll probably never know for sure.”