MH17: International prosecutors to pinpoint missile launch site

An international team of prosecutors investigating the downing of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014 will release its findings on Wednesday.

All 298 people on board the Boeing 777 died when it broke apart in midair flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

An earlier inquiry by the Dutch Safety Board concluded that a Russian-made Buk missile hit the plane.

Now a Dutch-led crime team will pinpoint where the missile was fired, but will stop short of naming suspects.

Prosecutors from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine are also part of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT).

Pro-Russian rebels have been blamed by Ukraine and the West for shooting down the plane on 17 July 2014.

Ukrainian government forces were involved in heavy fighting with pro-Russian separatists at the time.

The Safety Board (DSB) report said in October 2015 that the missile was fired from a 320 km area south-east of where the plane came down and the head of the DSB said the area was under rebel control.

Russia itself has denied any involvement, including allegations that the Buk missile launcher had come from Russian territory. But after the attack, the European Union and WE extended sanctions on Russia that had been introduced after the Ukraine conflict began.

Earlier this week, Russia produced radar images which, it argued, showed that the plane could not have come from rebel-held areas. Critics have pointed out that Russian officials have given three versions of events since the plane was shot down.

A source in the prosecutors’ office said he would pinpoint the launch site and identify the weapon. If they confirm what we already think we know, that a Buk missile was launched from inside territory controlled by the Russia-backed separatists, it will be difficult to deny their involvement.

We understand the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) is looking into a broad circle of suspects – at this stage they’re unlikely to name names. This is a criminal investigation but the findings will undoubtedly have a political fallout. The extent of that will depend on the detail contained in this progress report.

There is a question of motivation, why are the criminal investigators releasing this information now? One Dutch diplomat said that there was a suggestion during a meeting of representatives from the JIT member states in New York that this would open the door to suspects fearing for their lives offering a window of opportunity to hand themselves in.

Many of the families are frustrated that, despite waiting two years, the investigators still can’t tell them who did it. Hans de Borst, whose 17-year-old daughter Elsemiek was on board, says he’s “not expecting miracles“.

Barry Sweeney, who lost his 28-year-old son Liam, said all he wants to know is, “Why?”.

BBC/Hauwa M.