The Hague, (IANS) The missile that brought down a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet over eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 people on board, belonged to the Russian military, Dutch investigators said on Thursday.
For the first time, the Dutch-led team said the missile had come from a unit based in western Russia, the BBC reported.
All people on board the Boeing 777 died when it broke apart in mid-air flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
It was hit by a missile fired from rebel-held territory in Ukraine. Russia said none of its weapons was used.
But Wilbert Paulissen, a Dutch official from the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), told reporters: “All the vehicles in a convoy carrying the missile were part of the Russian armed forces.”
He said that after studying all available photos and footage, investigators had been able to trace the convoy to Russia’s 53rd Brigade, which consists of 300 people based in the city of Kursk.
Dutch prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said that a few dozen people of interest had been identified, adding that the probe into who was responsible for downing flight MH17 was now entering its final phases.
Flight MH17 left Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on 17 July, 2014 and was due to arrive at Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia on the following day.
The plane lost contact with air traffic control about 50 km from the Russia-Ukraine border. It crashed in the Donetsk area, in territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists.
Footage was later released by the Ukrainian government suggesting that a Russian-made Buk missile had been moved across the Russian border the next day.