Malaysia Airlines MH17 downed by Russian missile

Francois Lenoir  Reuters

The Russian Defense Ministry dismissed the findings of an worldwide investigative team that announced Thursday it had unequivocal evidence that a Russian-made missile shot down a Malaysian Airlines jet over eastern Ukraine four years ago, killing all 298 people aboard.

"The JIT has concluded that the BUK-TELAR which was used to shoot down flight MH17 originated from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade of the Russian armed forces", said Fred Westerbeke, the National Public Prosecution Service's chief public prosecutor.

Prosecutors said they have presented their findings to Moscow and are seeking answers, but so far have not received a formal response.

"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 investigators said.

The team called on the public, including friends and families of the members of Russia's 53rd brigade, to assist in their inquiries into the incident and come forward with details about the crew operating the missile system.

FILE PHOTO: A Malaysian air crash investigator inspects the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo) in Donetsk region, Ukraine, July 22, 2014.

The state-run TASS news agency featured a headline saying that that worldwide investigators "are still unable" to determine who downed the plane, while an article at the state-run Vesti.ru news website failed to mention the investigation's claim linking the missile that hit the plane to Russia's armed forces.

Evert van Zijtveld, the Dutch president of the foundation for relatives of MH17 victims welcomed the findings and said it's good there is now clarity about the involvement of the Russian Brigade 53.

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The Boeing 777 was blown up as it flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 passengers on board, including 193 Dutch citizens.

Dutch prosecutor Fred Westerbeke, standing next to a part of the BUK missile that downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, speaks at a news conference in the Netherlands on May 24.

Mr Paulissen said a "fingerprint for the missile" had been established through seven markings and features on the sides of the launcher visible in social media images.

Australia's foreign minister, Julie Bishop, issued a statement saying that "a sophisticated weapon belonging to the Russian Army was dispatched and used to shoot down a civilian aircraft". This action, he said, "should be of grave worldwide concern. We are discussing these findings with our partners and considering our options".

Any suspects identified and charged will be prosecuted in Dutch courts - if they can be arrested and brought to trial.

Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok, who recently held talks in Moscow about MH17, said Thursday's revelations were "an important piece of the puzzle".

Al Jazeera's Rory Challands, reporting from St Petersburg in Russian Federation, said the new findings from the investigation team have been known for months from reports by citizens journalists.

In an interim update on their investigation, prosecutors on Thursday said they had trimmed their list of possible suspects from more than a hundred to several dozen. "I am very impressed by the evidence that has been collected".

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