An international team of criminal investigators is inspecting missile parts recovered from the eastern Ukraine site of last year's crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in hopes of determining who is responsible for downing the plane, killing all 298 people on board.
Seven pieces of debris brought to a military laboratory in the Netherlands are believed to have come from a missile, which a separate Dutch-led safety investigation has already indicated was a probable cause of the disaster. An initial examination suggests the parts came from a Russian-made Buk ground-to-air rocket, some members of Dutch Safety Board investigation told the media.
A statement issued Tuesday by the Joint Investigation Team of international prosecutors probing the July 17, 2014, disaster said it was too early to draw conclusions as to who was responsible for shooting down the Boeing 777. The aircraft was en route from Amsterdam to the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur when it exploded and fell to the ground in eastern Ukraine territory controlled by pro-Russia separatist forces.
"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," the prosecution panel said of the missile debris. "For that reason, the JIT further investigates the origin of these parts."
Australia lost 38 citizens in the disaster and has investigators working on both the criminal probe and the air safety examination, the latter also including Malaysia, Ukraine, Russia, the United States and Britain. Newspapers in Australia and CNN last month reported having been shown a draft of the safety investigators' report that suggests the missile that brought down MH17 was a Russian-made Buk fired from rebel-held territory.
Ukrainian officials and their Western allies have accused Russia of fomenting the separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine and arming the insurgents, some of whom want the Ukrainian territory they have seized to be annexed to Russia.
Moscow denies backing the separatists, but the Kremlin's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in March 2014 was seen as an instigation for the pro-Russia rebels in eastern Ukraine. The Crimean land grab provoked international denunciation and sanctions that have contributed to Russia's recent economic decline.
Flight safety experts are meeting in the Netherlands this week to review the Dutch Safety Board's proposed final report on the MH17 disaster, due to be made public in October. The meeting is intended "to hash out their final conclusions after a two-month review of a draft report," the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
The newspaper said the session was expected to be contentious because the Russian delegation is "unhappy with the draft report's conclusion that blames Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine's east."
Russia last month used its veto power in the U.N. Security Council to block the creation of an international tribunal to identify and punish those found responsible for the disaster.
The safety experts are also examining a reconstruction of the doomed plane's cockpit and forward passenger sections, put together at the Gilze-Rijen air base in the Netherlands from wreckage recovered this year when the international forensic investigators were finally given safe access to the crash site.
The Joint Investigation Team's report aimed at determining responsibility for the disaster is unlikely to be completed until the end of the year, participants have said.
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