Friday, July 17 marks the one-year anniversary of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 shootdwn, a horrific disaster that killed 298 people. Although the official report on how the disaster happened is not expected until October, a Dutch prosecutor says that once the findings are complete, charges of murder and even war crimes will be leveled against the perpetrators of the atrocity.
Those perpetrators, the Dutch investigators will find, according to a CNN report Thursday, were pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine, who shot down the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 with a Buk missile system that was transported into Ukraine from Russia and then driven back across the border after the plane crashed into the Ukrainian town of Grabovo.
Because the Malaysia Airlines flight took off from Amsterdam on its way to the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, Dutch crash investigators have carried out the official inquiry into the MH17 disaster. At the same time, Dutch, Australian, Belgian, Malaysian, and Ukranian detectives have been conducting a criminal probe.
The criminal investigators say their report may not be issued until the end of 2015, a few months after the crash investigators’ report, but it will contain a “detailed account of what happened,” Dutch prosecutor Wim de Bruin told Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.
“We didn’t expect to get as far as we are now,” de Bruin said. “There will be charges of murder and possibly charges of war crimes.”
The chief Dutch public prosecutor, Fred Westerbecke, told the Australian TV network ABC that his agency believes that the pro-Russian separatists inside Ukraine are the most likely suspects in the shootdown — the same group fingered by United States officials, including U.S. President Barack Obama, in the days immediately after the crash.
“The most likely scenario is that a BUK missile fired from eastern Ukraine downed MH17,” Westerbecke said.
Eastern Ukraine is territory held by the anti-government separatist militias.
Russia has denied any responsibility for the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 shootdown — and last week blocked the creation of a United Nations tribunal to evaluate the investigators’ findings, saying that the tribunal would be biased against Russia.
Russia has also floated its own theories about who shot down the Malaysia Airlines plane on July 17, 2014, pinning the blame on a mistake by an overzealous Ukraine government fighter pilot — a scenario that was debunked by a Russian newspaper — or on a Buk missile fired by Ukraine government troops from the ground.
The latter idea drew ridicule from U.S. officials.
“First they said it wasn’t a BUK missile. Now, suddenly, they’re saying it is but it wasn’t them,” said a flummoxed U.S. State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf earlier this month.
An independent online group, Bellingcat, has also been highly active in debunking Russian claims about alleged Ukraine responsibility for the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 shootdown. As a result, according to a Newsweek report, the group has itself been the target of harassment and propaganda by Russia.
[Image: Daily Telegraph Video Screen Grab]