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CONFIRMED: MH17 Was Shot Down by Buk Missile

Dutch aviation safety administration confirms suspicions that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by Buk missile system, but does not place responsibility for the attack

A report released Tuesday by the Dutch Safety Board confirms the suspected final fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17: The aircraft was shot down by a surface-to-air missile while flying over the Ukraine. Standing in front of a partial reconstruction of the Boeing 777 involved, the board released their final 279-page report to the public, summarizing the final moments of the July 17, 2014 flight.

“No scenario other than a Buk surface-to-air missile can explain this combination of facts,” the Dutch Safety Board announced in a press release. “The 320-square-kilometre area from which the missile was launched has been determined on the basis of various simulations. Additional forensic investigation will be needed to establish the exact launching location; however, such an investigation lies outside the scope of the Dutch Safety Board’s mandate.”

Presenting their findings in a 20-minute computer animation that accompanies the report, investigators determined that the flight was routine in all aspects up until the missile attack. The shortened version of the video can be viewed below:

At 3:20 p.m. Central European Time, the board concluded that the aircraft was attacked by a Buk surface-to-air missile system, firing a 9N314M-type warhead at the commercial aircraft. The warhead detonated above and to the left of the cockpit, firing a cloud of shrapnel at the 777.

The debris, described as cubic and bow-tie shaped, penetrated the hull of MH17. As a result, the pilots were killed immediately and the cockpit becomes the first part of the aircraft to separate. The 777 ultimately disintegrated further, resulting in six crash sites spanning over 19 square miles.

In the first of two reports, the Dutch Safety Board addresses the questions of what brought the aircraft down and flying over a known conflict zone. Explaining their methodology, investigators were able to confirm the missile attack by a number of identifying factors, including the distinctive shrapnel left by the warhead. In addition to the matching debris, investigators discovered trace amounts of three explosive materials, one of which matched the missile fragments found on the aircraft. Furthermore, paint samples taken from the fragments meet the same specifications which would be found on the warhead.

The investigation also considered other mitigating factors that may have contributed to the crash of MH17, including Ukraine’s management of commercial airspace. Two weeks prior to the accident, the report discovered the Ukrainian aviation authority instructed commercial aircraft not to fly below 26,000 feet due to the military conflict. While military officials believed aircraft flying over this altitude would be safe, the attack on MH17 shattered those ideas.

“The weapon systems mentioned by the Ukrainian authorities in relation to the shooting down of these aircraft can pose a risk to civil airplanes, because they are capable of reaching their cruising altitude,” the report sub-concluded from the investigation. “However, no measures were taken to protect civil aeroplanes against these weapon systems.”

Feedback on the report was immediate and widespread. In a statement to Reuters, National Security Council spokesman Ned Price reaffirmed the White House position of bring justice to those involved.

“The United States will fully support all efforts to bring to justice those responsible,” said Price. “Our assessment is unchanged — MH17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile fired from separatist-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine.”

Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, praised the Dutch Safety Board for their findings using a tweet, echoing the response of the NSC.

The Presidential Administration of the Ukraine was much more direct on their opinions of the MH17 report.

In defending their position, RT reports Buk manufacturer Almaz-Antey claims if one of their missiles was involved, it would have been an outdated model. Conflicting with the Dutch report, executives for the military contractor claim the missile could have been fired from Ukrainian-controlled territory.

While the report explored the circumstances leading to the crash of MH17, Dutch Safety Board investigators did not issue blame for the incident. The criminal aspect of the investigation will be handled by the Dutch Ministry of Justice, after a UN Security Council resolution to invoke a tribunal was vetoed by permanent member Russia earlier this year.

“The Board is aware that this does not answer one important question – the question of who is to blame for the crash,” the report states. “It is the task of the criminal investigation to provide that answer.”

AP reports Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has asked Russia to “fully cooperate” with the criminal element of the MH17 investigation. As of the time of writing, Russia has not released a formal statement on the Dutch report.

[Photo: Peter Dejong/AP]

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