Investigators have confirmed a Russian missile was responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in July 2014, killing all 298 people on board.
The missile that brought down the plane was fired from a launcher that was part of Russia’s 53rd anti-aircraft brigade, and was tracked entering Ukrainian territory from Russia before the atrocity and returning afterwards, they said.
Wilbert Paulissen, head of the crime squad of the Netherlands’ national police, said: “All the vehicles in a convoy carrying the missile were part of the Russian armed forces.”
Russia has denied involvement in the incident and issued a statement saying the images presented were “fakes” that were “disavowed and rejected by Russian experts”.
In an interim update on their investigation, prosecutors said they had trimmed their list of possible suspects from more than a hundred to several dozen.
“We have a lot of proof and a lot of evidence, but we are not finished,” said chief prosecutor Fred Westerbeke. “There is still a lot of work to do.”
He said investigators were not yet ready to identify individual suspects publicly or to issue indictments. The question of whether members of the 53rd Brigade were actively involved in the downing of the plane remains under investigation, he said.
The findings of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) confirm those of the open-source investigative website, Bellingcat, which also claims to have pinpointed the individuals responsible.
The JIT has appealed to the public for information on those involved and has offered witness protection to anyone who comes forward.
The airliner was shot down with a Russian-made missile on July 17, 2014, with 298 people onboard, two-thirds of them Dutch, over territory held by pro-Russian separatists.
The Joint Investigation Team, comprising the authorities from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine said it would give an update on its work but would not identify suspects.
The Dutch Safety Board concluded in an October 2015 report that the Boeing 777 was hit by a Russian-made Buk missile, killing all passengers and crew, who came from 17 countries, including 38 Australians.
Dutch prosecutors said in September 2016 that 100 people of interest had been identified in the investigation, while Australian and Malaysian officials expressed hope that suspects would be made public in 2017.
Indictments have yet to be released and the suspects are likely to be tried in absentia in the Netherlands after Russia used its veto to block a U.N. Security Council resolution seeking to create an international tribunal.