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Dutch-led team to release initial MH17 criminal probe

Members of a joint investigation team present the preliminary results of the criminal investigation  into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 , in Nieuwegein, on September 28, 2016.   Last year a separate inquiry led by the Dutch Safety Board (OVV) found the Boeing 777 was hit by a BUK missile fired from an area most likely in rebel-held eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have been battling Ukrainian forces since early 2014. / AFP PHOTO / EMMANUEL DUNAND

Members of a joint investigation team present the preliminary results of the criminal investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 , in Nieuwegein, on September 28, 2016.<br />Last year a separate inquiry led by the Dutch Safety Board (OVV) found the Boeing 777 was hit by a BUK missile fired from an area most likely in rebel-held eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have been battling Ukrainian forces since early 2014. / AFP PHOTO / EMMANUEL DUNAND

Dutch-led criminal investigators were Wednesday to release initial findings into the MH17 disaster, which may pinpoint the exact spot in eastern Ukraine from where a missile was fired at the plane.

There has been growing frustration among relatives over the pace of the probe after the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was brought down in July 2014 on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 people on board including 196 Dutch citizens.

Last year a separate inquiry led by the Dutch Safety Board (OVV) found the Boeing 777 was hit by a BUK missile fired from an area most likely in rebel-held eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have been battling Ukrainian forces since early 2014.

Now the criminal investigation is expected to shed light on the exact type of BUK missile used. The missiles are made by Russia, but the militaries of both Russia and Ukraine possess them.

Investigators may crucially also show exactly where the Russian-made missile was fired from in the war-torn region, which could point a finger at the likely perpetrators.

But to the frustration of relatives, the Dutch prosecution has already cautioned it will not be naming any suspects at the briefing, taking place in the central town of Nieuwegein, near Utrecht.

The investigation has been headed by the Dutch prosecution service, but includes teams from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine.

They first met with relatives of the victims on Wednesday to discuss the results, before a press conference planned for 1100 GMT.

“Apart from wanting to know exactly what weapon was used and where it was fired from, we also want an answer as to where we go from here,” said Evert van Zijtveld, chairman of the foundation that supports families of MH17 victims.

“We want to see the perpetrators caught and put on trial,” he told AFP. Zijtveld lost his 18-year-old son Robert-Jan and daughter Frederique, 19, in the tragedy.

He voiced frustration at the progress of the probe, saying “in any case, it doesn’t seem that this problem can be solved by politicians.”

“We hope the perpetrators will be caught soon. The last thing we want is to sit with a situation similar to Lockerbie,” he said, referring to the bombing of a Pan Am jet over the Scottish town of Lockerbie 26 years ago in which 270 people were killed.

Libyan Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi was only found guilty 12 years later in 2001 — the only person ever convicted of the crime. He maintained his innocence until his death in 2012.

– Trading accusations –
Russia this week again sought to deflect the blame for the MH17 disaster, on Monday releasing what it said were radar images showing that no missile fired from rebel-held territory in the east could have hit the plane.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted Wednesday that Russia had provided “exhaustive information” which investigators should take into account.

“The data is unequivocal and on that data, there is no missile. Therefore if there was a missile it could have been launched only from a different territory,” he said.

Ukraine and the West insist pro-Russian rebels blew the jet out of the sky with a Russian-made missile system likely supplied by Moscow.

The tragedy saw the European Union slap tougher sanctions on Russia — blamed by the West for being behind the rebellion. The punitive measures remain in place as the fighting drags on.

But Russia and the rebels have consistently denied any role in downing the plane, and have instead blamed Ukrainian government forces.

Russia said the fact the Ukraine had not yet released radar information suggested the location from which the missile was launched — if it was a BUK — was in territory controlled by the Ukrainian armed forces.



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