An international team of investigators said they have evidence Russian President Vladimir Putin likely approved the transfer to Russian-backed separatists of the missile used to shoot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014. File Photo by Igor Kovalenko/EPA-EFE
Feb. 8 (UPI) -- A team of international investigators said Wednesday they have "concrete information" that Russian President Vladimir Putin likely approved the transfer of the missile that brought down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in 2014, killing all 298 people on board.
The jetliner was shot down by a BUK surface-to-air missile that was fired by Kremlin-backed separatists in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region.
"There is concrete information that the separatists' request was presented to the president, and that this request was granted," a report released Wednesday by the Joint Investigation Team said.
"The investigation produced strong indications that a decision on providing the Buk Telar -- or in any event a heavier air defense system with higher range -- to the Donetsk People's Republic was taken at the presidential level," the report said.
Last year, the District Court of The Hague found Russian nationals Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinskiy and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko guilty in absentia for the 298 deaths.
The Joint Investigation Team, which was established in 2014, includes investigators from five nations that were affected by the tragedy: Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ukraine and the United States. The team relied on evidence gathered during the Dutch Safety Board's investigation as well as the conclusions of the District Court of the Hague.
The Dutch Safety Board was charged with determining the cause of the crash and establishing what lessons can be learned from it. The Joint Investigation Team is in charge of gathering evidence to identify and prosecute the perpetrators.
The report points out the District Court of The Hague ruled that Russia was in effective control of the Donetsk People's Republic at the time the passenger jet was shot down.
"The district court first established that, from mid-May 2014, the Russian authorities had such far-reaching involvement in the DPR conflict in eastern Ukraine that the Russian Federation exercised overall control over the DPR," the report says.
"The court concludes that the Russian Federation exercised overall control over the DPR from mid-May 2014, at least until the crash of flight MH17. This means that the armed conflict, which was non-international in geographic terms, was internationalized and was therefore an intentional armed conflict," the report continues.
Investigators said that while they have evidence of Putin's role in approving the transfer of the missile to separatists, their evidence doesn't meet the prosecutorial standard of "complete and conclusive evidence."