Investigators identify Russian military unit in MH17 downing

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The passenger jet was heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014, when it was blown out of the sky over eastern Ukraine.

6 of 7 The downing of a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine in 2014 killed all 298 passengers and crew on board.

An worldwide team of investigators says detailed analysis has established a Buk missile which hit the airliner almost four years ago came from a Russian-based military unit.

"All vehicles in a convoy carrying the missile were part of the Russian armed forces", Wilbert Paulissen, Dutch official from JIT said of the interim results of the investigation.

The Joint Investigative Team (JIT), comprising authorities from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands, and Ukraine, made the announcement at a press conference on May 24 in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

The U.S. State Department said on Thursday the United States had "complete confidence" in the findings and called on Russian Federation to admit its involvement. Dutch prosecutors said in 2016 they had identified 100 people of interest but did not reveal their identities.

Almost 10,000 people were killed during the conflict that broke out between pro-Russia fighters and Ukrainian government forces.

Head prosecutor Fred Westerbeke speaks next to a part of the BUK rocket that was sacked on the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 during the press conference of the Joint Investigation Team, in Bunnik, on May 24, 2018.

The head of the Dutch investigation team, Fred Westerbeke, told the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta last October: "We will disclose everything when this investigation is over, and we will give the names at the trial".

Investigators will appeal to the public on Thursday to assist in their inquiries into the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 almost four years ago over eastern Ukraine.

After a series of Russian media claims of Ukrainian responsibility were all shown to be false, Moscow appears to have settled on the idea that it was "impossible to tell" which side was responsible.

Investigators also displayed parts of the engine casing and exhaust system of a Buk 9M38 series missile recovered from eastern Ukraine and showed photos of a unique serial number on the missile. The victims represented more than 30 nationalities, including a joint Dutch American citizen.

The Bellingcat investigative group - which uses sophisticated digital techniques to analyze open-source audio and visual data - alleged that a man identified on intercepted communications as Delfin (Dolphin) is retired Russian Colonel General Nikolai Tkachyov, who is now serving as the chief inspector of Russia's Central Military District. "An important question, which the JIT is still investigating", he said. Kremlin-linked media outlets have floated a range of implausible theories suggesting Ukraine was responsible for shooting down the plane.

The investigators Thursday offered only open-source video and photographic evidence to support their conclusion that the missile came from a Russian military antiaircraft system.

The Russian foreign ministry later said "it is clear that these gratuitous accusations are an attempt to discredit our nation in the eyes of the global community". He said also the team's investigation is not yet complete.

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