13 Oct 2015

MH17: Ukraine plane crash caused by missile

The MH17 passenger plane disaster over Ukraine was caused by a Russian-made BUK missile, according to the final report from Dutch investigators.

MH17 reconstruction (Getty)

Investigators said the missile was fired fom eastern Ukraine, where “armed conflict” between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists was taking place.

The report said airlines flying over the region should have recognised the dangers, but because “nobody thought civil aviation was at risk”, 61 airlines had used this airspace until the crash led to its closure. It said Ukraine should have closed its airspace earlier.

Before the report was published, the Russian state arms producer Almaz-Antey said its own research into the crash “entirely refutes” what Dutch investigators found.

Almaz-Antey produces anti-aircraft missile systems, including the model of BUK rocket launcher suspected of being used to shoot down MH17.

Some 298 people, including 10 Britons, were killed in July 2014 when the Malaysia Airlines Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur Boeing 777 was seemingly shot down over an area of eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian separatists operated. At the time, Ukrainian government troops were involved in fierce fighting with the separatists.


The Dutch report does not deal with “blame or liability”, which is the responsibility of an ongoing criminal inquiry by the Dutch national prosecutor’s office. The Dutch Safety Board’s report focuses on what caused the crash and the issue of flying over areas of conflict.

It also examines why Dutch surviving relatives had to wait for up to four days for confirmation that their loved ones had died, and to what extent the passengers were conscious before the plane hit the ground.

A preliminary report published by the DSB in September 2014 said the wreckage was “consistent with the damage that would be expected from a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside”.

This finding tallied with allegations that the plane had been brought down by a BUK surface-to-air missile. Russian officials have rejected any involvement and accused the Ukrainian air force of being behind the incident.

The investigation was led by Holland because 196 of the victims were Dutch. The media were briefed at Gilze-Rijen air base in southern Holland, where much of the wreckage was taken for examination by crash investigators.

Black box

Despite the difficulty in accessing the crash site due to fighting in the area, the black box flight recorders were recovered early on and were passed to the DSB after being inspected by the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch, which investigated the Lockerbie bombing.

The MH17 disaster followed the disappearance in March last year of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which was flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 237 passengers on board.