The missile system used to shoot down MH17 over eastern Ukraine four years ago, killing 298 people, came from the Russian military, Dutch investigators revealed Thursday. Investigators previously concluded the Malaysia Airlines flight was shot down on July 17, 2014, by a missile launched by a Russian-made Buk missile system moved into territory held by Moscow-backed rebels in Ukraine, then returned to Russia, per the Guardian. The Joint Investigation Team's latest report is the first to directly link the missile system to Russian armed forces. Specifically, investigator Wilbert Paulissen of the Dutch National Police says photo and video evidence traces the Buk—which has "unique characteristics" that "served as a type of fingerprint"—to the 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade in Kursk, western Russia, reports the Telegraph.
It is "legal and convincing evidence which will stand in a courtroom," investigators say, with Paulissen noting "all the vehicles in a convoy carrying the missile were part of the Russian armed forces," per Reuters. But though investigators are focused on several dozen possible suspects, down from more than 100, they say it's too early to bring charges. Per the Guardian, any eventual trial will be held in the Netherlands, from which two-thirds of victims hailed, as Russia, denying involvement, has vetoed an international tribunal at the UN. Meanwhile, family members of Australian victims have penned an open letter to Russians ahead of June's World Cup. "We are painfully aware of the dark irony that the Russian leaders who will profess to welcome the world with open arms are those who are chiefly to blame for shattering our world," it reads, per ABC Australia. (Read more Malaysia Airlines MH17 stories.)