Saturday

15th Dec 2018

Dutch-led inquest on MH17 points finger at Russia

  • The DSF pieced together MH17's cockpit using wreckage from the crash site (Photo: onderzoeksraad.nl)

A Dutch-led inquest has concluded that a Russian-made Buk missile shot down flight MH17 over Ukraine in July last year.

The missile, carrying a “9N314M-type” warhead, filled with bow-tie and cube-shaped metal objects, detonated less than one metre from the left side of the cockpit, the Dutch Safety Board (DSF) said on Tuesday (13 October).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Bow-tie and cube-shaped metal packed in the Buk warhead (Photo: onderzoeksraad.nl)

It killed pilots instantly, and severed the cockpit from the rest of the hull, which then broke up and fell 10km from the sky.

The tail section hit the ground first. The main body of the plane landed upside down and caught fire.

The attack killed all 283 passengers, 80 of whom were children, and 15 crew.

But DSF chief Tjibbe Joustra, speaking to relatives of victims earlier on Tuesday at the Gilze-Rijen airbase in the Netherlands, said people most likely died or lost consciousness right after the Buk exploded.

The DSF said the Buk could have been fired from anywhere within a 320 square-km area in east Ukraine.

Joustra also noted the inquest had no mandate to say who fired it - a question subject to a separate investigation by Dutch prosecutors.

Open airspace

Joustra criticised Ukraine for not closing its airspace to civil aviation.

He said Kiev let MH17 fly over the combat zone, en route from The Netherlands to Malaysia, despite the fact Russia-controlled fighters had shot down 16 Ukrainian military aircrcaft, including two at altitudes of more than 6km, in the same area in recent days.

But he noted that non-closure is “normal” practice among many war-torn states.

He said 160 civilian planes flew over the combat zone the same day and three other civilian planes were near to MH17 when it was hit.

The prevailing theory among EU and US military experts is that Russia-controlled fighters fired the Russian-supplied Buk because they thought MH17 was a Ukrainian military plane.

The disaster prompted EU states to impose economic sanctions on Russia.

It also prompted a Russian media campaign which disseminated different theories.

One was that the Ukrainian air force shot it down in a false flag operation in order to prompt Western intervention.

But the DSF ruled out the possibility that MH17 was hit by an air-to-air missile. It also said the plane was mechanically sound, and that damage wasn’t caused by a bomb, or by a meteorite shower.

Russia’s view

Joustra noted that Australian, British, Dutch, Malaysian, Russian, and US experts took part in the inquest.

He said the Russian specialists agreed with the main findings. But they disagreed that the warhead and missile type could be proved “with certainty”.

The Russian firm that makes Buk missiles, Almaz-Antey, which is under EU sanctions, held a separate press conference in Moscow earlier on Tuesday.

Its CEO, Yan Novikov, said its internal enquiry “completely refuted the conclusions of the Dutch commission”.

He said the type of missile was probably a 9M38M1-type Buk, which hasn’t been used by the Russian military since 2011.

He said it was fired from the town of Zaroshchenske, in east Ukraine. The town was held by Russia-controlled fighters in July 2014. But Novikov said he “isn’t sure” who held the town or who fired the weapon.

He also claimed the timing of Almaz-Antey's press event was a “coincidence”.

But the timing prompted the DSF’s Joustra to tell press: “It's always special when people already know that they don't agree with a report that's not even published yet”.

Moscow, on Monday, also tried to discredit the DSF.

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign affairs minister, said the inquest is “weird” because it didn’t speak to Almaz-Antey and didn’t collect all the wreckage available. Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, made similar remarks.

The comments come amid Russia’s ongoing refusal to authorise a UN tribunal to bring MH17 perpetrators to justice.

Ukrainian theory

For his part, Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, who was the head of the Ukrainian security service, the SBU, in July last year, also revived a Ukrainian theory on Tuesday.

He said in an op-ed in Ukrainska Pravda, an online news agency, Kiev has evidence that Russian forces were trying to shoot down a Russian civilian plane in order to justify a full-scale invasion.

He noted that an Aeroflot flight, en route from Cyprus to Russia, using the same model plane, was flying 1,500 metres above MH17 at the time of the attack.

The DSF findings come three months before the EU sanctions on Russia are due to expire.

They also come amid a lull in fighting in east Ukraine and amid a new Russian military campaign in Syria, which has shifted media attention from the Ukraine conflict.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders endorse creation of eurozone budget
  2. Selmayr has no comment on MEPs' call to resign
  3. May had 'robust' discussion with Juncker
  4. UK to continue talks on EU 'assurances'
  5. EU invests €20m in AI software for self-driving cars
  6. Belgian PM 'not optimistic', urges 'no deal' Brexit preparedness
  7. Romanian president expects no Brexit summit in January
  8. Swedish MPs reject Lofven to lead new government

Opinion

EU parliament vote strengthens whistleblower protection

We must not undervalue what a massive step the European Parliament vote represents. The hard work has paid off. We can take a moment to celebrate, but the hard work begins again for finalising strong protection for European whistleblowers.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. No more Brexit talks, despite May's pleas
  2. EU leaders stuck on asylum reform
  3. Orban and other PMs spread fake news, says Juncker
  4. Fishing quota and no-deal Brexit preparation This WEEK
  5. Kosovo has right to own army, Germany and US say
  6. EU needs election-meddling stress tests
  7. Russian and US obstruction was 'insult' to climate scientists
  8. EU-27 unimpressed by May, offer little on Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us