Detailed analysis of video images has established that the Buk missile that brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 came from a Russia-based military unit, according to an international team of investigators.
Wilbert Paulissen of the Dutch National Police said Thursday that the missile was from the Russian military’s 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade, which is based in the Russian city of Kursk.
“All the vehicles in a convoy carrying the missile were part of the Russian armed forces,” he told a televised news conference.
Paulissen was speaking at a presentation of interim results of the long-running investigation into the downing of flight MH17.
Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said the new conclusion raised new questions: “Such as the question about how actively involved the brigade itself was in bringing down Flight MH17.”
The passenger jet was headed from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, when it was was blown out of the sky over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. All 298 passengers and crew were killed.
Russia has always denied involvement in the downing of the jet. There was no immediate comment from Moscow on Thursday.
Prosecutors said in 2016 that the plane was shot down by a Buk 9M38 missile fired from territory controlled by Russia-backed rebels, using a mobile launcher trucked in from Russia and hastily returned there.
Thursday’s presentation went a step further by identifying the exact unit allegedly involved and more details of the rocket, and showing a compilation of videos and photos from social media tracing the missile convoy’s journey.
Investigators also displayed parts of the engine casing and exhaust system of a Buk 9M38 series missile recovered from eastern Ukraine and showed photos of a unique serial number on the missile. Team members said that careful analysis of video and photos from social media traced the journey of the Russian missile convoy into Ukraine and identified the missile launcher system.
The displayed missile’s serial number gave them a “fingerprint” identifying it and where it was made but investigators said they could not yet say with certainty that it was the exact missile used to down MH17. They appealed for witnesses to come forward with more information about the missile.
Of the 298 people of more than 30 nationalities killed, 196 were Dutch, 42 Malaysian and 27 Australian.
Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok welcomed the newly released findings.
“This is an important piece of the puzzle,” Blok said. “I am very impressed by the evidence that has been collected.”