Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by a missile fired from a launcher brought into Ukraine from Russia and located in a village held by pro-Russian rebels, international prosecutors said on Wednesday.
The findings counter Moscow’s suggestion that the passenger plane, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in July 2014, was brought down by Ukraine’s military rather than the separatists. All 298 people on board, most of them Dutch, were killed.
The conclusions were based on thousands of wiretaps, photographs, witness statements and forensic tests during more than two years of inquiries into an incident which led to a sharp rise in tensions between Russia and the West.
Among the key findings were: the plane was hit by a Russian-made Buk-9M38 missile; the missile was fired from the rebel-held village of Pervomaysk in eastern Ukraine; and the launcher was transported into Ukraine from Russia.
“This Buk trailer came from the territory of the Russian Federation, and after the launch it was returned again to the territory of the Russian Federation,” said Wilbert Paulissen, chief investigator with the Dutch national police.
The Ukrainian government said the findings pointed to Russia’s “direct involvement”. Russia – which has always denied Moscow or pro-Russian rebels were responsible – rejected the prosecutors’ conclusions, saying they were not supported by technical evidence and the inquiry was biased.
Earlier on Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said its radar data had “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,” he said.
The investigators, from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine, said they had not had access to Moscow’s radar images but would gladly include a Russian contribution to the inquiry.
Ukrainian and Western officials, citing intelligence intercepts, have long blamed the pro-Russian rebels for the incident, which played a big part in a decision by the European Union and United States to impose sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine conflict and has damaged Dutch-Russian economic ties.
In reaction to the investigators’ findings, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called on Russia “to lend all possible cooperation” to the inquiry, which will now shift its focus to identifying individual suspects.
Prosecutors said that while they had not brought charges against culprits or established a court, they had identified 100 individuals of interest in relation to the incident on July 17, 2014.
“Of a number of them, we know pretty exactly what their role and position was, for instance those who organised the arrival of the Buk rocket and who were in charge of the transport that day,” said Fred Westerbeke, chief prosecutor at the Netherlands National Prosecutor’s office.
“We know exactly what happened, but who exactly was in charge, and whether it was done intentionally, there the investigation is still continuing,” Westerbeke said.