Putin 'supplied missile' that downed flight MH17, investigators say

Putin ‘supplied Buk missile’ that hit flight MH17 over Ukraine, killing all 298 on board, investigators say

  • International investigators said Putin likely signed off on supply of missile to DPR
  • All 298 people on board the Malaysia Airlines flight died in the July 2014 tragedy
  • But prosecutors said they were suspending investigation due to lack of evidence

There are ‘strong indications’ that Russian President Vladimir Putin himself approved the supplying of the missile that shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in 2014, international investigators said Wednesday.

The BUK-TELAR missile system was used to shoot down the passenger plane on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, the Joint Investigation Team of six countries probing the crash said. 

All 298 passengers and crew were killed when the missile slammed into the plane and brought it crashing back down to earth. Russia has denied all involvement.

‘There are strong indications that the Russian president decided on supplying the Buk TELAR to the DPR (Donetsk People’s Republic) separatists,’ the investigators’ statement read.

But despite this, prosecutors today said they were suspending the criminal investigation into the incident, claiming they have insufficient evidence to launch any new prosecutions.

FILE – In this July 17, 2014, file photo, people walk amongst the debris at the crash site of a passenger plane near the village of Hrabove, Ukraine

FILE PHOTO: Local workers transport a piece of wreckage from Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 at the site of the plane crash near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo) in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine November 20, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council via a video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia, February 3, 2023

The Buk missile is fired in an animated recreation by the Dutch investigators

Dutch prosecutor Digna van Boetzelaer said that ‘the investigation has now reached its limit. All leads have been exhausted’ as the team began laying out the evidence it uncovered in its long-running investigation. 

The bombshell announcement comes nearly three months after a Dutch court convicted two Russians and a Ukrainian rebel for their roles in shooting down the Boeing 777 on July 17, 2014. 

One Russian was acquitted by the court.

None of the suspects appeared for the trial and it was unclear if the three who were found guilty of multiple murders will ever serve their sentences.

One of the men found guilty, Igor ‘Strelkov’ Girkin, is a former security service officer who served as one of the chief architects of Putin’s annexation of Crimea, and is now a vocal proponent and military strategist amid the war in Ukraine.  

The convictions and the court’s finding that the surface-to-air Buk missile that blew the Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur flight out of the sky came from a Russian military base were seen as a clear indication that Moscow had a role in the tragedy. 

The Russian Foreign Ministry accused the court in November of bowing to pressure from Dutch politicians, prosecutors and the news media amid the war in Ukraine.

But the November convictions held that Moscow was in overall control in 2014 over the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, the separatist area of eastern Ukraine where the missile was launched. 

The Buk missile system came from the Russian military’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade, based in the city of Kursk.

Lawyers attend the judges’ inspection of the reconstruction of the MH17 wreckage, as part of the murder trial ahead of the beginning of a critical stage, in Reijen, Netherlands, in May 2021

Two former Russian intelligence officers – Igor Girkin (top left) and Sergey Dubinskiy (top right) – as well as Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko (bottom right), who was working for Putin, were found guilty of murdering the 289 people onboard the Boeing 777. A third former Russian intelligence officer, Oleg Pulatov (bottom left), was acquitted by the Dutch court

The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) is made up of experts from the Netherlands, Australia, Malaysia, Belgium and Ukraine, though Dutch prosecutors are took the lead because most of the victims were Dutch. 

The victims of the disaster came from 10 countries, including 196 Dutch, 43 Malaysians and 38 Australian residents. 

The JIT has continued to investigate the crew of the Russian Buk missile system that brought down the plane and those who ordered its deployment in Ukraine.

‘The indications for close ties between the leadership of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Russian government officials raises questions about their involvement in the deployment’ of the missile, the Netherlands Public Prosecution Service said on its website.

It cited intercepted phone calls between leaders of the breakaway region and ‘high-ranking Russian government officials held in the summer of 2014.’

As well as the criminal trial that was held in the Netherlands, the Dutch and Ukrainian governments are suing Russia at the European Court of Human Rights over its alleged role in the downing of MH17.

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