quinta-feira, 29 de setembro de 2016
MH17: Buk missile finding sets Russia and west at loggerheads
MH17: Buk missile finding sets Russia and west at loggerheads
Acrimonious legal standoff likely after inquiry says Buk brought from Russia hit
Malaysia Airlines flight, killing 298 people
Luke Harding and Alec Luhn in Moscow
Wednesday 28 September 2016
Moscow faces the prospect of an acrimonious legal standoff with the west after an international investigation concluded that a Buk missile brought across the border from Russia had shot down flight MH17.
The Dutch-led joint investigation team (JIT) said the missile had been fired from a village under the control of pro-Russia rebels. At a press conference in the Dutch town of Nieuwegein, its investigators said there was “irrefutable evidence” that a Buk 9M38 missile downed the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, killing all 298 people on board.
Russia immediately dismissed the findings, which could lead to attempts to extradite Russian citizens to stand trial. Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s press spokesman, said the “whole story is unfortunately surrounded by a huge amount of speculation and unqualified, unprofessional information.”
The investigators, who include representatives from Australia, Malaysia, Ukraine, and Belgium, said their conclusions were based on a wealth of supporting evidence, including forensic examinations, witness statements, satellite images, radar data and intercepted telephone calls.
The investigation found:
The missile was fired from an arable field 6km south of the town of Snizhne, an area was under the control of pro-Russia fighters.
The Buk came from Russian territory into eastern Ukraine and was later transported on a white Volvo truck. Witnesses, photographs and video show it escorted by several other vehicles and by “armed men in uniform”.
Around 100 people have been identified who can be linked to the downing of MH17 or the transport of the Buk.
Witnesses at the launch site near the village of Pervomaiskyi reported hearing “a very loud noise” and “a high whistling sound”. They also saw a plume of smoke.
Investigators are now examining who gave the order to smuggle the Buk system into Ukraine, and who gave the order to shoot down MH17.
Wilbert Paulissen, the head of the Dutch national detective force, told the press conference: “MH17 was shot down by a 9M38 series missile, launched from a Buk-Telar. This Buk-Telar was brought in from the territory of the Russian Federation, and after launch was subsequently returned to Russian Federation territory.”
Satellite data from the US and the European Space Agency identified the launch site, along with testimony from numerous witnesses, he said.
Paulissen said the JIT had examined and ultimately rejected other scenarios. They included the possibility that there was a terrorist attack on board the flight, or that it was shot down by a military aircraft. Radar data from Russia and Ukraine proved there were no other planes in the vicinity.
The investigators said they had demonstrated that a ground-based air defence system downed the Boeing 777. They compared pieces of the Buk retrieved from the crash site with various types of missile from the 9M38 series. They also exploded a missile in a controlled test in Finland.
Forensic examinations gave further clues. Fragments of the Buk missile were found in the bodies of MH17’s pilot and crew during autopsies. There were traces of cockpit glass, showing the fragments pierced the plane “from the outside”. A twisted piece of metal from the missile shot “with great force” was recovered from the cockpit window.
The JIT said it had identified a large part of the route taken by the Buk after it arrived from Russia and was deployed inside rebel-held eastern Ukraine.
The evidence includes damning intercepted telephone calls between rebel leaders. There are also photos, analysed and authenticated, plus a previously unknown video obtained from a witness. Several anonymous witnesses had come forward following an appeal for information on the JIT’s website, Paulissen said.
A video reconstruction shown at the press conference revealed the Buk’s journey. It was seen leaving rebel-held Donetsk on a low-loader, heading east. After arriving in Snizhne on the afternoon of 17 July, the Buk was offloaded and drove to a field south of town. Early the next day it was taken back across the Russian border via the rebel-held city of Luhansk.
Wednesday’s press conference raises the prospect of a long and bitter standoff with the Kremlin, which vehemently denies all involvement.
“The conclusions by the working group on the crash of the Malaysian Boeing are extremely politicised. I don’t believe any of their conclusions,” Leonid Slutsky, the newly appointed head of the foreign affairs committee in Russia’s parliament, told the RBC newspaper.
Eduard Basurin, a representative of the Russia-backed separatist forces in Donetsk, said the rebels “couldn’t have shot down the Boeing” because they did not have Buk anti-aircraft missiles.
Basurin also said no one had seen the US satellite imagery that allegedly recorded the missile launch. He accused Ukraine of not presenting information on “what aircraft were in the air at the time”, even though the Russian military has backtracked on its claims that a Ukrainian jet could have shot down MH17.
The JIT has so far not identified the 100 suspects it now has under investigation. Nor did it say which country they were from, but they are widely believed to be serving Russian soldiers and officers.
It seems highly unlikely Moscow would allow suspects to be extradited from Russia to stand trial. It is also unclear where a possible trial would take place, though the international criminal court in The Hague is the obvious choice. Two-thirds of the victims were Dutch. The others came from nine countries and included ten Britons.
Will Mayne, whose 20-year-old brother Richard was killed on board MH17, said he and other relatives were satisfied with the investigation. “They went into a lot of depth. The Buk came from Russia and went back after a day. This highlights once again how Russia has been lying and manipulating.”
Mayne said he was cautiously optimistic that the suspects would eventually be extradited from Russia. “It’s going to be a struggle, but you always have to be hopeful,” he said.
Investigators were unable to say how long their inquiry would now take, adding on Wednesday that it would be a “long haul”. “I told the grieving relatives that I can’t make any promises,” the chief Dutch prosecutor Fred Westebeke said. “The work is going on with all countries, and our best people,” he said.
The JIT’s interim report is a vindication for the British-led online investigation team Bellingcat. It correctly identified the field from which the missile was fired. On the basis of social media posts it traced the Buk to Russia’s 53rd anti-aircraft unit, based in the city of Kursk. As a result Bellingcat has come under withering attack from Russian state media.