Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine by a Russian-made Buk surface-to-air missile, the Dutch Safety Board said on Tuesday in its final report on the July 2014 crash that killed all 298 aboard.
The long awaited findings of the board, which was not empowered to address questions of responsibility, did not specify who launched the missile. The report also said that those on board died almost instantly. The probe was led by The Netherlands because 196 of the victims were Dutch. Dutch authorities are also leading a separate criminal investigation into the downing of the plane.
Investigators said the missile exploded less than a yard from the MH17 cockpit, killing three crew in the cockpit and breaking off the front of the plane.
The aircraft broke up in the air and crashed over a large area controlled by rebel separatists who had been fighting government troops there since April 2014.
"We must move forward towards ensuring that those responsible are held accountable for this murderous act," Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a statement after the report’s release.
The board said the plane should never have been flying there as Ukraine should have closed its airspace to civil aviation.
“We have concluded as a precaution there was sufficient reason for the Ukrainian authorities to close the air space above the eastern part of their country,” Tjibbe Joustra, the chairman of the Dutch Safety Board, told a press conference.
It said “nobody gave any thought” to the risk. The report also said states in civil conflict must do more in the future to protect passenger planes.
The Dutch investigators also unveiled a ghostly reconstruction of the forward section of the plane. Some of the nose, cockpit and business class of the Boeing 777 were rebuilt from fragments of the aircraft recovered from the crash scene and flown to Gilze-Rijen air base in southern Netherlands.
Ukraine and Western countries contend the airliner was downed by a missile fired by Russia-backed rebels or Russian forces, from rebel-controlled territory. However, the Russian maker of Buk missiles on Tuesday sought to discredit the findings.
State-controlled Russian firm Almaz-Antey showed videos of a Buk missile being exploded close to the nose of decommissioned Ilyushin plane.
The experiment, it said, disproved claims the plane was shot down from Snizhne, a village controlled by pro-Russian rebels. Instead, they said the passenger jet seems to have been shot down from territory disputed by insurgents and Ukrainian troops, and by an outdated version of the Buk missile that is no longer in use by the Russian military.
“The results of the experiment completely dispute the conclusions of the Dutch commission about the type of the rocket and the launch site,” said Yan Novikov, director of Almaz-Antey, which has been put under Western sanctions.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, though, blamed Russia's security service for the downing of MH17.
“I personally have no doubt that this was a planned operation of the Russian special services aimed at downing a civilian aircraft,” Yatsenyuk told a televised cabinet meeting.