Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17: Russian Missile, Military Unit That Shot Down Plane Killing 298 Is Revealed

Peter Dejong AP Images

On July 17, 2014, a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200, with the flight number MH17, took off from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. But the flight never reached its destination because as it flew over war-torn eastern Ukraine, someone fired an anti-aircraft missile at the plane carrying 298 passengers and crew. Everyone on board was killed, including one American citizen, 19-year-old Quinn Lucas Schansman.

Schansman was a native of Fort Lee, New Jersey, though he spent much of his upbringing in Holland.

On Thursday, nearly four years after the airliner was shot down, the Dutch team in charge of investigating the Malaysia Airlines MH17 disaster publicly named the Russian military unit that owned the missile that was fired at the plane, and displayed a large segment of the actual Russian “Buk” missile believed to have exploded and killed the 298 people on board.

The large missile fragment was found by investigators at the Ukraine crash site in 2016.

At a press conference Thursday in the Dutch city of Utrecht, the Joint Investigative Team also presented evidence that the missile launcher that fired at the plane was driven across the Russian border into Ukraine on a flatbed truck with a white, Volvo cabin. The missile launcher was operated by the Russian 53rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade and fired from a farm near Pervomaisk, a town in eastern Ukraine, the investigators said.

Malaysia Airlines, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, Russia, Malaysia Airlines shootdown
Dutch investigators on Thursday present their findings about how a Russian military unit was behind the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.Featured image credit: Freek van den Bergh Getty Images

About two weeks after the shootdown, videos showing what appeared to be the missile launcher on the flatbed truck turned up on YouTube. Read the 2014 Inquisitr coverage of those videos, and watch the videos of the missile launcher themselves, by visiting this link.

Russia has long been widely believed to have carried out the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, but the Russian government has consistently denied responsibility for the tragedy that amounted to a mass murder of nearly 300 people including a United States citizen. Russian state-run media has reported that Ukraine itself was responsible for the shootdown, with the missile fired by a Ukrainian military pilot, and not from the ground at all. But independent investigators say they have found that the evidence presented by Russia to back up those accusations was faked.

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Russia also claimed to possess satellite images showing an anti-aircraft missile launcher being deployed from inside Ukraine, by that country’s military, at the time of the MH17 shootdown. But photo analysts at Middlebury Institute for International Studies in Monterey, California, determined that those satellite images had been digitally altered.

After the Dutch investigators released their findings on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that his government will “review” the evidence presented by the Joint Investigative Team, evidence that appears to prove that Russia carried out the shootdown.

Malaysia Airlines, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, Russia, Malaysia Airlines shootdown
Russian President Vladimir Putin says that he will review the new MH17 shootdown evidence.Featured image credit: Alexander ZemlianichenkoAP Images

An investigation by the British journalistic group Bellingcat last year identified the voice of a man driving a Peugeot sedan seen in the videos escorting the Buk missile launcher as belonging to retired Russian Major General Sergey Dubinsky, a military intelligence officer with close links to one of Putin’s top advisers, Deputy Prime Minister Vladislav Surkov. Surkov was described by the Guardian newspaper as a “mysterious Kremlin puppet master” and “the chief architect of Vladimir Putin’s system.”

Dubinsky was an officer in the Russian intelligence service known as the GRU, or Main Intelligence Directorate, the same intelligence service identified as the group behind the cyber-hacking operation at the heart of Russia’s 2016 U.S. presidential election interference campaign designed to help elect Donald Trump. But neither Trump nor anyone in his administration had commented as of Thursday night on the new Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 findings identifying Russia as the perpetrator of the shutdown.