MH17: Russia accuses Dutch of wrongly reporting missile launch area

By Andrew V. Pestano Follow @AVPLive9 Contact the Author   |  Jan. 14, 2016 at 8:14 AM
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MOSCOW, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Russia has accused the Dutch Safety Board of incorrectly determining the possible launch site area of the missile that destroyed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014.

Oleg Storchevoi, the deputy head of Russia's Federal Air Transport Agency -- known as Rosaviatsia -- wrote a formal letter to Dutch Safety Board Chairman Tjibbe Joustra in which he accused the MH17 investigators of wrongly concluding the spatial position of the missile relative to the plane at the moment of impact and the location from where the missile was launched.

"The new important fact is that the location, dimensions and boundary of damage, the number and density of penetration holes on the wreckage and especially the nature of damage to the frame of the Boeing 777 aircraft are not consistent with the warhead detonation point and missile orientation as presented in the final report," Storchevoi wrote in the letter. "As a result, the possible launch area was calculated incorrectly."

In October, the Dutch Safety Board said MH17 was destroyed by a Russian missile. The board had been investigating the crash of the Boeing 777 since the aircraft went down in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 people on board.

The plane was hit by a Russian-made 9M38 Buk missile, Dutch investigators concluded in a report. The missile hit the front left part of the plane, which broke off entirely. The Dutch board said airspace over the area should have been closed.

Oleg Smirnov, the president of Civil Aviation Partner, an air transport infrastructure development fund, told the government-owned TASS Russian news agency that Ukraine is to blame for the loss of MH17 because they failed to close the airspace.

"The disaster must be blamed on crude violation of the rules of the International Civil Aviation Organization by the Ukrainian leadership, which failed to close the airspace over an area of hostilities," Smirnov said. "According to all rules air space shall be declared closed as soon as fighting on the ground begins."

While the Dutch report confirms that MH17 was downed by a missile -- a theory investigators believed possible from the start -- it does not address who was responsible for firing the missile.

Ukrainian officials and Western allies believe it was Russia-backed rebels who fired the missile, while Moscow believes Ukraine was responsible. The flight was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Nearly 200 of the people on board were Dutch citizens.

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