International prosecutors say the Malaysian airliner shot down in eastern Ukraine just over two years ago was hit by a Russian-made Buk missile launched from a village held by pro-Russian rebels fighting Ukrainian government forces.
The prosecutors – from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine – say the surface-to-air Buk missile system used to shoot down MH17 was fired from the village of Pervomaysk and was later returned to Russia.
Investigators say it is not clear whether an order had been given for fighters to launch the missile or whether they had acted independently.
JIT: Flight MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile from a farmland near Pervomaiskyi https://t.co/pPBoGwfSSL— JIT MH17 (@JITMH17) September 28, 2016
Read a summary of the report here
What happened to MH17?
The Boeing 777 broke apart in mid-air, scattering wreckage over several kilometres of fields in rebel-held territory.
At the time of the incident on July 17, 2014, pro-Russian separatists were fighting Ukrainian government forces in the region.
All 298 people on board, most of them Dutch nationals, were killed.
Why are the findings significant?
They challenge Moscow’s suggestion that Malaysia Airlines flight 17 (MH17), en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in July 2014, was brought down by the Ukrainian military.
Will anyone be held to account?
The prosecutors cannot file charges.
There is no international agreement on what court such a case would be heard in.
However, the victims’ relatives have been seeking details of who shot the plane down in the hope that it might lead eventually to prosecutions over the tragedy.
Investigators say they have identified 100 people whom they describe as being “of interest” to them, but have not yet been formally identified as individual suspects.
Is this the first investigation?
A civilian investigation by the Dutch Safety Board last year concluded that MH17 was hit by a Buk missile fired from eastern Ukraine.
Moscow denied that pro-Russian rebels were responsible.
What has Russia said?
Repeating earlier denials, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “First-hand radar data identified all flying objects which could have been launched or were in the air over the territory controlled by rebels at that moment.”
“The data are clear-cut..there is no rocket. If there was a rocket, it could only have been fired from elsewhere.”
Investigators say they have not had access to the new radar images on which Moscow is basing its latest statements.
What have the victims’ families said?
They were informed of the inquiry’s findings shortly before the prosecutors’ news conference on Wednesday morning.
Speaking before the news conference, Silene Fredriksz, whose 23-year-old son Bryce was on the plane with his girlfriend, Daisy Oehlers, says they want justice.
“As a family, we are impatient. We want to know what happened, how it happened and why. We want those responsible to face justice.”
Outside the tribunal venul in the Netherlands,Elmar Giemulla, the lawyer for the relatives of the German nationals from MH17, said: “The question which was asked by the families ‘who, then, are the perpetrators, do you have any idea about this?’ was not answered, even though an answer is possible.”
“If a missile is sent from Russia to Ukraine for just one day, then there must have been a decision and the decision definitely cannot be taken by just a soldier.”
The downing of the plane played a significant part in a decision by the EU and the US to impose sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine conflict.
Ukrainian and western officials, citing intelligence intercepts, have blamed pro-Russian rebels for the incident.
Russia has always denied direct involvement in the Ukraine conflict and rejects responsibility for the destruction of MH17.
Prosecutors have sought legal assistance from Moscow since October 2014. They visited in person for a week in July.
“Russian authorities have offered information in the past, but have not answered all the questions,” the prosecutors said in a statement.