NIEUWEGEIN (Netherlands) • A Malaysian airliner shot down in eastern Ukraine was hit by a Russian-made Buk missile launched from a village held by rebels fighting Ukrainian government forces, international prosecutors said yesterday.
The findings challenge Moscow's suggestion that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in July 2014, was brought down by the Ukrainian military. All 298 people on board, most of them Dutch citizens, were killed.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak responded with a call for firm action to be taken against those responsible for the downing of MH17.
The prosecutors cannot file charges, but the victims' relatives have been seeking details of who shot the plane down in the hope that it might lead eventually to prosecutions over an incident which led to a sharp rise in East-West tensions.
Bernama reported Datuk Seri Najib as telling Malaysian reporters in Germany, where he is on a three-day visit: "Based on the two findings, Malaysia wants firm action to be taken. We have promised that those who were responsible for the downing of the aircraft will be brought to justice. We owe it to the families. The families want justice. So we will pursue this."
LOOKING FOR ANSWERS
As a family, we are impatient. We want to know what happened, how it happened and why. We want those responsible to face justice.
MS SILENE FREDRIKSZ, whose 23-year-old son Bryce was on the airplane with his girlfriend Daisy Oehlers.
The Buk missile system used to shoot down the plane fired one missile from the village of Pervomaysk and was later returned to Russia, said the prosecutors from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine.
They told a news conference in the central Dutch city of Nieuwegein that the investigative team had identified 100 people who were described as being of interest to them, but they have yet to determine who could be held criminally responsible.
It was unclear whether an order had been given for fighters to launch the missile or whether they had acted independently, the prosecutors said.
A civilian investigation by the Dutch Safety Board also concluded last year that MH17 was hit by a Buk missile fired from eastern Ukraine, but Moscow denied that pro-Russian rebels were responsible.
Repeating those denials yesterday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "First-hand radar data identified all flying objects which could have been launched or were in the air over the territory controlled by rebels at that moment.
"The data is clear-cut... there is no rocket. If there was a rocket, it could only have been fired from elsewhere."
The investigators said they had not had access to the new radar images on which Moscow was basing its latest statements.
At the time of the incident on July 17, 2014, pro-Russian separatists were fighting Ukrainian government forces in the region. The Boeing 777 broke apart in midair, flinging wreckage over several kilometres of fields in rebel-held territory.
Prosecutors cannot file charges because there is no international agreement in which court a case would be heard.
The victims' families were informed of the findings shortly before the prosecutors' news conference.
Speaking before the conference, Ms Silene Fredriksz, whose 23- year-old son Bryce was on the airplane with his girlfriend Daisy Oehlers, said the victims' families wanted justice. "As a family, we are impatient. We want to know what happened, how it happened and why. We want those responsible to face justice," she said.
The downing played a significant part in a decision by the European Union and the United States to impose sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine conflict.