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MH17 crash report findings sharpen suspicions and denials

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which crashed last July in Eastern Ukraine, was likely blown apart by a Russian-built missile, according to Dutch investigators. The safety board also concluded that the missile was shot from an area controlled by Russian-backed separatists. But the Russian state arms producer that makes Buk missiles disputed the findings. Judy Woodruff reports.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    A 15-month-long investigation into what brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 last year is over. And, as most expected, it concluded a missile targeted the plane. The airliner was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was struck over Eastern Ukraine. No one has taken responsibility, but today's report set sharpened suspicions and denials.

    Like a giant jigsaw puzzle, the pieced-together wreckage of the plane's front fuselage loomed over the chairman of the Dutch Safety Board, as he announced the findings:

  • TJIBBE JOUSTRA, Chairman, Dutch Safety Board:

    Flight MH17 crashed as a result of the detonation of a warhead outside the airplane, above the left-hand side of the cockpit.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    In short, as this Dutch animation depicts, a Russian-built missile, identified by shrapnel and paint, blew the Malaysian airliner apart on July 17 last year. The report says the missile exploded less than a meter from the cockpit, spraying metal fragments into the plane.

    All 298 people on board were killed, as wreckage, luggage and bodies rained down over Eastern Ukraine. Investigators say some passengers might have stayed alive for a minute or so after impact, but were too dazed by shock, cold and loss of oxygen to know what was happening.

    Barry Sweeney's son was one of those who died.

    BARRY SWEENEY, Father of a Victim: But because of the impact of the missile, the explosion, the confusion and everything else, it sounds as though everybody died peacefully. And that's comforting me, and I would think all other families of Flight MH17.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The investigation also plotted simulated flight paths and concluded the missile was launched from a 124-square-mile region. Russian-backed separatists controlled that area, but the report doesn't address who fired the weapon. Still, the Russian state arms producer that makes the BUK missile disputed those findings. It said its own experiments prove a much older missile took down the plane.

  • YAN NOVIKOV, General Director, Almaz-Antey (through interpreter):

    The general engineer of missile 9M38 decided that the safety period for using this missile, including all extensions, is 25 years. The use of these missiles was prohibited after that, and they were retired from the Russian army.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The arms manufacturer said that kind of missile is still used by Ukraine's military and that, in fact, it was launched from Ukrainian-controlled territory. Either way, the Dutch investigators said today the plane never should have been in that airspace to begin with.

  • TJIBBE JOUSTRA:

    Ukraine's position is that there was insufficient reason for closing the airspace above the eastern part of the country. We have, however, concluded that, as a precaution, there was sufficient reason for Ukraine authorities to close the airspace above the eastern part of their country.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Meanwhile, Dutch prosecutors say unnamed persons of interest have been identified in a criminal investigation that is continuing.

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