International team to present update on MH17 air crash investigation

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An international team is presenting an update Wednesday on its investigation into the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine.

The announcement comes nearly three months after a Dutch court convicted two Russians and a Ukrainian rebel for their roles in shooting down the Boeing 777 and killing all 298 people on board on July 17, 2014. One Russian was acquitted by the court.

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None of the suspects appeared for the trial and it was unclear if the three who were found guilty of multiple murders will ever serve their sentences.

The convictions and the court's finding that the surface-to-air Buk missile that blew the Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur flight out of the sky came from a Russian military base were seen as a clear indication that Moscow had a role in the tragedy. Russia has always denied involvement. The Russian Foreign Ministry accused the court in November of bowing to pressure from Dutch politicians, prosecutors and the news media.

But the November convictions held that Moscow was in overall control in 2014 over the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, the separatist area of eastern Ukraine where the missile was launched. The Buk missile system came from the Russian military's 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade, based in the city of Kursk.

The Joint Investigation Team is made up of experts from the Netherlands, Australia, Malaysia, Belgium and Ukraine. Most of the victims were Dutch. It has continued to investigate the crew of the Russian Buk missile system that brought down the plane and those who ordered its deployment in Ukraine.

“The indications for close ties between the leadership of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Russian government officials raises questions about their involvement in the deployment” of the missile, the Netherlands Public Prosecution Service said on its website, citing intercepted phone calls between leaders of the breakaway region and “high-ranking Russian government officials held in the summer of 2014.”

As well as the criminal trial that was held in the Netherlands, the Dutch and Ukrainian governments are suing Russia at the European Court of Human Rights over its alleged role in the downing of MH17.

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