International prosecutors presented evidence Thursday that they claim proves the Russian military was responsible for the downing of Flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 people on board.
Members of the Joint International Criminal Investigation Team MH17 officially blamed Moscow for the tragedy during a briefing in The Hague, backing up an earlier report by investigative website Bellingcat that identified the same Russian brigade as being responsible for the attack.
The Kremlin has long denied accusations that its weapons were used in the tragedy, which caused the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 to explode in midair.
The flight was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on 17 July 2014 when it was shot down traveling over the rebel-held conflict zone in eastern Ukraine.
Wilbert Paulissen, head of Joint Investigation Team, presented video and photo evidence that links the atrocity to the 53rd Anti Aircraft Missile brigade, a unit numbering 300 troops based in Kursk, western Russia.
The evidence collected allowed investigators to “fingerprint” the exact missile used in the attack, and the same missile was recorded several times when it joined a convoy of the 53rd brigade on 23–25 June 2014, a month before the attack.
Prosecutors even showed photos of the missile responsible, claiming it is a 9M38 BUK missile that was manufactured in Russia in 1986.
Investigator Fred Westerbeke said they had identified “a few dozen persons of interest” but declined to give any names so not to jeopardize any future prosecutions.
Bellingcat has already named a number of those it suspects of being involved, and Eliot Higgins, founder of the website, told VICE News Thursday that it was “extremely confident about who we've ID'd as suspects.”
The investigation team also called on insiders and eyewitnesses to share information on the attack. “Who formed part of the crew? With which instruction did they set out? Who was responsible for the operational deployment of this [missile] on 17 July 2017?” Paulissen asked.
The Kremlin has yet to respond to the latest allegations.
When the investigation first announced that MH17 had been downed by a Buk surface-to-air missile in 2016, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told the BBC: “We cannot accept as final truth of what they say. I bet you haven't seen any proof.”
Cover Image: A part of the BUK-TELAR rocket that was fired on the MH17 flight is displayed on a table during the press conference of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), in Bunnik on May 24, 2018. (ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN/AFP/Getty Images)