MH17 plane 'was brought down by Russian military missile', investigators say

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On Thursday, the team in charge of the investigation said that the Buk missile which hit the passenger plane had come from a unit of the Russian army stationed in Kursk.

Joint Investigation Team (JIT) member Australian Jennifer Hurst speaks during a press conference.

Flight MH17 was shot down over a conflict zone in Ukraine's Donetsk region on July 17, 2014, as the Boeing 777 was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Wilbert Paulissen, of the Dutch National Police, said the missile was from the Russian military's 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade based in the city of Kursk. "The 53rd Brigade is part of Russia's armed forces".

"We have a lot of proof and a lot of evidence, but we are not finished", said chief prosecutor Fred Westerbeke. The team said Thursday that the Buk missile system was towed onto Ukrainian territory shortly before the attack and towed back onto Russian territory shortly afterwards.

The investigators stated that detailed analysis of video images and photos has unequivocally established that the Buk missile that brought down the plane came from a Russia-based military unit, the clearest link yet published by the team to the involvement of Russian military in the deadly missile strike.

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Prosecutors said they had presented their findings to Moscow but had not received a response.

"It is nothing but an allegation aimed at tarnishing our country's image on the global stage", a ministry statement carried by TASS news agency said.

Russia's foreign ministry responded later on Thursday, calling the investigators' conclusions "regrettable" and "aimed at discrediting our country". Dutch prosecutors said in 2016 they had identified 100 people of interest but did not reveal their identities.

In a statement, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said: "That a sophisticated weapon belonging to the Russian Army was dispatched and used to shoot down a civilian aircraft should be of grave global concern".

The official cabinet reaction to the new findings will be discussed on Friday morning, but foreign minister Stef Blok has already said "an important piece of the puzzle is in place". All 298 people on board - two thirds of whom were Dutch - were killed. "How can they identify the fingerprints of an active serviceman?"

At a press conference in The Hague on Thursday, the investigators showed photo and video evidence that they said proved they had identified the specific BUK missile system responsible.

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Russian Federation repeated on Thursday that it had nothing to do with the incident.

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"They didn't give us this information, although a buk (missile system) from their military forces was used".

Paulissen had initially revealed in 2016 that communication intercepts showed that pro-Moscow rebels had called for deployment of the mobile surface-to-air weapon and reported its arrival on July 17, 2014, in rebel-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine.

"If the worldwide investigative team is indeed interested in tracking down the real culprits of the MH17 catastrophe, its members would better rely on facts and witness testimony and not fakes produced by Bellingcat and Ukraine's Security Service", the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

But on Wednesday, Transport Minister Anthony Loke said the government would not renew its contract with the Houston-based underwater exploration firm, as of May 29, according to the state-run Bernama news agency.

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