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MH17: ‘Strong indications’ Putin decided to give separatists the missile that shot down the plane in 2014, Dutch investigators say


There are “strong indications” that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally approved the decision to supply Ukrainian separatists with the missile that shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in 2014, Dutch investigators said on Wednesday.

Citing phone conversations intercepted by Russian government officials, the joint prosecution investigation team said there were “strong indications that in Russia the president made the decision to provide the Buk-TELAR to the separatists of the DPR”, or the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine.

The investigators nevertheless said that “the high bar of complete and conclusive evidence is not met” and that regardless, as head of state, Putin enjoys immunity from prosecution. The joint investigation team said it had shared its findings with the families of the 298 victims.

CNN contacted the Kremlin to react. Moscow has repeatedly denied responsibility for the attack, and Russian officials and state media have offered a series of often contradictory explanations for the tragedy.

Flight MH17 was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014, when it was shot down from the sky over pro-Russian rebel held territory in eastern Ukraine. All 298 people on board were killed.

Dutch investigators had already concluded that the missile that shot down MH17 was a Russian Buk rocket, fired from a launcher belonging to Russia’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade. In November, a Dutch court found two Russians and a separatist Ukrainian guilty of mass murder for their involvement in the downing of MH17.

In their latest discovery, investigators say DPR leaders appeared to be in “close contact” with Kremlin advisers and Russian intelligence.

“After the separatists requested longer-range anti-aircraft guns, their request is in the second half of June 2014 discussed at the presidential administration in Moscow. It is a state agency that supports the president. After that, the request for a heavier air defense system is presented to the Minister of Defense and the President,” investigators told the Dutch court on Wednesday.

Investigators say the separatists’ request has been approved.

“In recorded phone conversations, Russian government officials say the decision on military support rests with the president,” the joint investigation team said. ‘The decision is even delayed for a week’ because there is only one who decides […] the person who is at a summit in France. Then-President Putin, on June 5-6, 2014, was at the commemoration of the D-Day landings in France.

“There is concrete information that the request of the separatists is presented to the president, and a positive decision is taken. It is not known whether the request explicitly mentions a Buk system. Shortly after, heavy defense systems aircraft were delivered, including the Buk which later shot down MH17.

Investigators said there was not enough solid evidence to press charges.

“Because at this time it cannot be determined who the operators of the Buk-TELAR were, and other concrete information about this is missing, it cannot be determined why they fired a Buk rocket at MH17, what was their mission and what information they had at the time of the shot.

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