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24 May, 2018 13:10

Missile that downed MH17 came from Russian military, unit of origin pinpointed – intl investigators

Missile that downed MH17 came from Russian military, unit of origin pinpointed – intl investigators

The Dutch-led probe says the missile that hit flight MH17 over Ukraine came from a unit in western Russia. Claims about its Russian origin were made by activist group Bellingcat earlier, but it was seriously questioned back then.

The international team investigating the 2014 tragedy, in which Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed in eastern Ukraine, reiterated the claim that it was a Buk missile, but now claims it also pinpointed the exact unit responsible.

The Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) “has come to the conclusion that the BUK-TELAR that shot down MH17 came from 53rd Anti-aircraft Missile Brigade based in Kursk in Russia,” the head of the crime squad of the Dutch National Police, Wilbert Paulissen, told reporters on Thursday.

The findings also claim that the missile carrier came from Russia and was returned to the country. However, the investigators have apparently failed to move any further than British online investigative activist group Bellingcat, which presented their report nearly one year ago and made the same allegations.

“We realize that the investigation collective Bellingcat has already concluded the same and published it,” Paulissen said, noting that his team carried out a separate, “independent” probe.

The conclusions were announced even though the probe is it still unfinished and currently in its “last phase,” and there is still much to be done, according to JIT members. Two questions still remain unanswered – who was responsible for shooting down the plane, and why did it happen? Moreover, further evidence to back up the “revelations” is currently not available to the public.

In 2016, the Dutch-led group said it suspected around 100 people could be linked to the alleged transportation of the Buk missile system to eastern Ukraine and the missile launch. Nearly two years of investigation made their role clearer, according to Thursday’s update, but the number of people involved was narrowed down to dozens, Dutch Chief Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said.

While the latest JIT statement hardly presents anything new, earlier Bellingcat reports were refuted by ‘Anti-Bellingcat’ activists. Russian bloggers, journalists, aviation experts, and volunteers united in the group to highlight significant flaws and inaccuracies in the Bellingcat version of the tragedy.

READ MORE: 'Anything can be fabricated': Retired Russian general on accusations of involvement in MH17 crash

For example, there is the repeated claim that a Buk missile system was transported through the Russian-Ukrainian border to the place the missile was allegedly fired and then returned. The Bellingcat report used pictures and data from open sources, showing the Buk system on both sides of the border and claiming it was the same. However, the one spotted in Russia was of different modification, the activists noted, pointing out that it contains a “step” on the left side of the system.

The British group’s claims that there were no Ukrainian Buk missile systems in the conflict-zone were also debunked by their Russian peers. They provided various screen shots of Ukrainian media reports picturing the systems belonging to the Ukrainian Army in the same area.

READ MORE: Is there a new Cold War? Dutch FM says ‘nyet’ after meeting Russia’s Lavrov

Last month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that Russia provided uncut radar-location data “that cannot be faked or changed” and “clearly” shows the missile did not come from the direction the investigators claimed. However, all data on the tragedy provided by Moscow was only selectively accepted by the multinational team of investigators, Lavrov said at a joint news conference with his Dutch counterpart, Stef Blok in Moscow.