Malaysia Air Crash In Ukraine Consistent With Missile Attack
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 broke apart over Ukraine due to impact from a “large number of high-energy objects”, the Dutch Safety Board said on Tuesday in a preliminary report consistent with the theory it was shot down by a missile.
The crash over pro-Russian rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine on July 17 killed 298 people, two thirds of them from the Netherlands.
The report, published on Tuesday, said MH17 crashed due to external objects penetrating the fuselage. “There are no indications that the MH17 crash was caused by a technical fault or by actions of the crew,” it said.
Although the report did not mention a missile, impact with a large number of fragments would be consistent with a “proximity” warhead, designed to explode in the air and hurl shrapnel at its target, said Tim Ripley, a defense analyst with Jane's Defence Weekly magazine.
Such warheads can be fitted to a number of missiles, including the Russian-made BUK surface-to-air missile that Ukraine and Western allies including the United States say was fired by separatists who probably targeted the airliner by accident.
Dutch investigators were unable to reach the crash site because of fighting between pro-Russian militants and Ukrainian government forces.
The early findings were based on data retrieved from the cockpit voice recorder, the flight data recorder, satellite and other images, and radar information. Rebels turned over the recorders after recovering them in the wreckage.
A series of photographs of the wreckage detailed in the report showed multiple shrapnel impacts.
Kiev and its Western allies, including the United States, say separatists were supplied from Russia with a BUK missile, a giant, advanced system with enough range to hit an airliner at cruising height.
The separatists have mostly denied ever possessing such missiles, although one separatist leader told Reuters in July that they did in fact have one on the day the plane was shot down. Moscow denies supplying the rebels with weapons.
U.S. President Barack Obama said the day after the crash that “evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside of Ukraine”.
The Dutch report is “an initial, provisional sequence of events” and it could take up to a year for a final report to be concluded, the board said. A separate Dutch criminal investigation has been launched to determine if charges should be brought against individual culprits.
Nearly two months after the crash, Tuesday's release is several weeks past a 4 week timeframe generally required by the International Civil Aviation Organization. Extra time was given due to the complex nature of the MH17 case.