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Dutch Investigators Say Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 Downed By Russian Missile


We start this hour with the Dutch report out today on the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine. It's the result of a 15-month investigation. The report says the flight crew died instantly after an antiaircraft missile exploded just three feet outside their cockpit windows. The rest of the 298 passengers and cabin crew died soon afterwards. The Malaysia Airlines flight originated in Amsterdam, and most of those who died were Dutch. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley begins our coverage from The Hague.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: The press conference took place in a hangar beside the partially rebuilt Boeing 777. Recovered sections of MH17's shrapnel-pocked skin were put in place on a frame. Dutch Safety Board head Tjibbe Joustra said 15 months of extensive forensic tests and simulations led investigators to a definite conclusion.


TJIBBE JOUSTRA: Flight MH17 crashed because a 9N314M warhead detonated outside the airplane above the left side of the cockpit. This warhead fits the kind of missile that is installed on the BUK service-to-air missile system.

BEARDSLEY: Russia took part in the investigation but accused the Dutch of ignoring its input. Moscow accepts that MH17 was brought down by a missile fired from a Russian-built BUK launcher but disagrees with what kind of missile it was and where it was fired from.

Today's report also addressed another troubling issue. Why had the plane flown over separatist-held Eastern Ukraine?


JOUSTRA: Ladies and gentlemen, why was Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 flying over an area where an armed conflict was taking place? The answer is as straightforward as it is disquieting.

BEARDSLEY: Joustra said few imagined the conflict would impact on civil aviation. In fact, 160 commercial flights from 32 countries flew in that same corridor on that same day. The Dutch investigation also went to great lengths to dispel conspiracy theories swirling around this tragedy by confirming what did not happen.


JOUSTRA: Flight MH17 did not crash as a result of meteor strikes. We have excluded the possibility of the airplane itself having any technical defect or that of a bomb exploding inside the airplane, nor did flight MH17 crash as a result of an air-to-air attack.

BEARDSLEY: Family members of the crash victims spoke to reporters on a windy esplanade at The Hague after they'd been privately briefed ahead of the press conference. Evonne Von Bartendaueur lost her aunt in the crash. She says she hopes lessons will be learned from the investigation.

EVONNE VON BARTENDAUEUR: Well, you never can get somebody back that you have lost, but I think it's important that every effort is done to reassure us that such things can't happen again.

BEARDSLEY: Cecile Bauer lost her sister, brother-in-law and their two children. She says for her, the most important thing is to finally know what brought the plane down. She's not sure if the continuing Dutch criminal investigation will ever bring justice for the victims.

CECILE BAUER: Who can we punish, yeah? Is it the person who pushed the button, or is it his supervisor? Or is it his supervisor? Or - yeah, I don't know. It's - I don't know.

BEARDSLEY: As for Russia's rejection of today's report, Bauer says it's exactly what she expected. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, The Hague. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.