MH17 crash: Fragments of Russian missile BUK launcher found at crash site

Investigators said the fragments could provide information about who was to blame for the crash

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The Independent Online

Possible parts of a BUK missile launcher that may have been used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines flight 17 have been found in Ukraine.

Dutch prosecutors investigating the plane crash, which killed all 298 people on board in July last year, said the parts “are of particular interest to the criminal investigation as they can possibly provide more information about who was involved in the crash of MH17”.

A statement on their official website said the parts were "possibly originating from a Buk surface-air-missile system". Historically, the system has been developed and used by Russian forces.

Officials previously said they are treating a surface-to-air missile strike as the most likely cause of the disaster but the latest announcement was the first indicating physical evidence of a weapon.

In a statement, investigators cautioned that "at present the conclusion cannot be drawn that there is a causal connection between the discovered parts and the crash of flight MH17".

The Dutch Air Safety Board and international Joint Investigation Team is drafting in forensic specialists and weapons experts to analyse the parts.

A spokesperson for the Dutch public prosecutor, Wim de Bruin, could not give more details of exactly what was under investigation but said the fragments were found during recovery missions to the crash site.

Separatist rebels in Donetsk have denied involvement and blamed Ukrainian forces for the disaster, while authorities in Kiev accuse them of shooting the plane down.

On the day the Boeing 777 crashed on its journey from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, a social media post attributed to a rebel leader claimed separatists had shot down a Ukrainian military transport plane.

The swiftly-deleted message, accompanied by a video showing rising smoke, said: “We warned them - don’t fly in our sky.”

Footage also emerged last month showing rebels picking through the smouldering wreckage of the plane, examining bodies and luggage.

Realisation quickly dawns that a commercial airliner has been shot down, with a voice believed to belong to a commander telling someone on the phone: “We’re at the crash site…it’s civilian."

“There are a lot of bodies, women,” he says, according to a translation by “F***. Passenger plane was f*****.”

The Netherlands, where most of MH17's passengers were from, is leading the investigation into the disaster and a final report is due to be released in October by the Dutch Safety Board.

A separate international criminal investigation is expected to take several more months to complete.

Additional reporting by agencies