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Malaysia, Australia Demand Justice for Citizens Killed Aboard MH17

Even Russia admits a Buk missile shot down the Malaysian airliner three years ago today, but its version of events is finding few takers. 

17 July 2017

On the third anniversary of the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, the investigative group Bellingcat says there can be no doubt that a Russian-made Buk anti-aircraft missile destroyed the plane, killing all 298 passengers and crew.


Bellingcat uses open-source materials and social media to gather information on conflict situations. Its new report (pdf) summarizes the state of its probe and includes findings from the Dutch-led criminal investigation into the incident, known as JIT.


The “only credible candidate” for the missile launcher that hit MH17 is a Buk 332 of Russia’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade, the report says. Using witness reports and videos, Bellingcat says it tracked the Buk 332’s journey from Russia’s side of the border, to the largest separatist-held city, Donetsk, and on to a field near the town of Snizhne in rebel-held territory. On 18 July, the missile launcher was filmed heading east through the rebel-held city of Luhansk, with one missile missing.


Last September the team of investigators from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, and Ukraine also concluded that the missile was fired from rebel territory, Reuters reports.


The JIT used more than 120 investigators, spoken to more than 200 witnesses and studied 3,500 intercepted phone calls and half a million videos and photographs as of September 2016, Australia’s New Daily reported.


Malaysia Airlines plane. Image via Paul Rowbotham/Wikimedia Commons.


Dutch citizens comprised most of the passengers on MH17. The dead included 38 Australians and 43 Malaysians.  


The perpetrators may be tried in absentia, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said yesterday, Reuters reports. Last month the Netherlands said suspects in the case would be tried in a Dutch court, under Dutch law.


Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai welcomed the decision, saying its courts would ensure “accountability in compliance with the highest international standards,” The Star Online reports today.

No suspects have been named by any of the countries investigating the incident.


Russia has denied any direct involvement in the Ukrainian war and has also suggested that the Ukrainian military downed the Malaysian jet.



  • The Russian defense company which makes Buk systems, Almaz-Antey, says its tests show that the missile that downed MH17 was fired from territory controlled by the Ukrainian military. The head of JIT said its investigators had dismissed this version of events, TASS reported on 5 July.


  • Bellingcat’s report claims Almaz-Antey’s conclusions were not supported by witnesses, any open source information, or technical assessments made by the Dutch Safety Board.


  • Forces of the unrecognized Donetsk People’s Republic probably intended to hit a Ukrainian military plane instead of a civilian airliner on 17 July 2014, Bellingcat suggests. Two days before, a Ukrainian jet fired on a residential building in Snizhne, killing 11 civilians and injuring eight. Separatist forces had made “numerous successful attacks against military jets and transport planes” in the period leading up to the MH17 downing, the group says.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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