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Crash site of the MH17 in Ukraine. Photo supplied

JIT accuses Russia of downing MH17 in bungled presentation

The Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) have given a press conference on the findings related to the MH17 crash in Ukraine. They showed parts of what they say was a BUK missile from the 9M38 series, bungling dates and important references.

Published: May 26, 2018, 9:16 am

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    Chief Dutch Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke wearing a tie in the colours of the Ukrainian flag. Screenshot from press conference, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

    On Thursday, head of the Dutch National Police’s Central Crime Investigation department Wilbert Paulissen said that the missile was launched by the Buk TELAR belonging to the Russian Armed Forces, while Dutch Chief Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke stated that the investigation team would not disclose the evidence allegedly uncovered. Westerbeke, incidentally wore a tie with the same colours as the Ukraine flag.

    Not only was the Public Prosecutor very vague about the origin of the two pieces of evidence presented, but also made some factual errors in their presentation says Dutch investigative journalist Joost Niemoller. In being so careless with presenting evidence, the Public Prosecutor will have little chance in a lawsuit, he added.

    Niemoller also expressed concern over the manipulation of social media images in the investigation.

    The JIT told the media that one of the pieces shown had been presented in September 2016 already. “That just does not seem to be true. This ‘venturi’ was shown much earlier, namely in the report of the Dutch Safety Board published in October 2015. It can be seen on page 86,” says Niemoller.

    Later this same photo was shown again, not in September 2016, as they claimed during the press conference, but in June 2016, when the Public Prosecution Service presented an E-magazine about the research into MH17.

    They also presented to the international press the other missile component, the “casing” which the JIT says was included in the OVV report. “But that part has not been seen at all. In fact, this part has never been shown before,” Niemoller pointed out.

    “If we go back to pages 86 and 87 that deal with these missile parts, we read there that during the salvage of the wreckage ‘near the wreck’ a number of parts were found that can not originate from the aircraft. These would be the missile parts.

    That raises questions:

    -What is ‘near the wreck’?

    -Have they been there since the wreckage of the plane came down? Or had they been there later or earlier?

    -Why is it that only a few rocket parts have been found?

    Note that the crash site has been unattended for months. In a war zone.

    Subsequently, the report states that not all these “missile parts” were published in the report, so as not to impede the subsequent criminal investigation. Evidence used by the Dutch Safety Board may not be used again for criminal investigation. But, as already mentioned, the “venturi” has already been published. Can it still be used as evidence?

    “But the big question remains: Are these ‘rocket parts’ really proof?” Niemoller asks.

    According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the videos provided by Dutch investigators on the MH17 downing were supposed to show Russian armed forces’ alleged involvement in the tragedy, but failed to do so. “The speakers preferred not to mention when and where the engine was found, who handed this item to the investigative commission,” the ministry’s statement read.

    The ministry noted that the JIT’s use of the casing part of a BUK missile engine, which was showcased during Thursday’s press conference as “evidence” of Russian involvement, pointed to Ukraine instead.

    The passenger Boeing’s downing over Ukrainian in 2014, can not be tied to the evidence, the Russian ministry said, as the missiles, whose engines were demonstrated by the Dutch team, were disposed of after 2011.

    As no new anti-aircraft missiles were supplied to Ukraine, and the special number on the missile part displayed, shows that it was produced in the Soviet Union in 1986.

    “After 25 years of operation, all missiles of the BUK systems are subject to decommissioning and disposal, and further use of these products… poses a direct threat to the life of servicemen. The maximum lifetime of the missile, the engine from which was demonstrated by the Dutch commission last Thursday was 2011 (1986 + 25), after which all the missiles produced that year were seized, decommissioned and sent for disposal,” the ministry pointed out.

    The ministry suggested that the Dutch investigators look into origin of the missile engine because it could belong to Ukraine’s armed forces, which has operated some 20 battalions of BUK missiles systems since 1991.

    “The only reason for the deliberate silencing of the source of origin of the showcased rocket engine, produced in 1986, by the Dutch investigative commission is that it probably belongs to the Ukrainian armed forces,” the statement read.

    “Of course, no proof of any kind was presented, just a very flashy video, filmed on the basis of ‘pre-made’ data by Bellingcat who had previously been accused of manipulating data in support of the Russian implication version,” it concluded.

    Russia has categorically rejected accusations of involvement in the MH17 crash. Kremlin spokesman Dmiti Peskov dismissed the statements issued by the Dutch and the Australian embassies on Friday, in which both countries accused Russia of downing plane.

    “The investigation conducted in the Netherlands by the investigative team did not include the Russian side, although the Ukrainian side was represented. Of course, not being able to be a full-fledged participant in the work of that investigation team, Russia does not know to what extent it may trust the results of this work,” Peskov said.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Russia will only recognize the results of the MH17 investigation if Russia is allowed to participate in the investigation. “For us to recognize what it (the JIT) says, we have to participate fully in the investigation,” Putin said.

    MH17 was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, carrying mostly Dutch passengers, all of whom — including the crew — were killed.

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