Update investigation JIT MH17 - press meeting (24-5-2018)

Speeches by Mr. Fred Westerbeke, Chief Public Prosecutor of the National Public Prosecution Service in the Netherlands and also Coordinator of the Joint Investigation Team, Mr. Wilbert Paulissen Head of the National Criminal Investigation Service of the Netherlands Police and Ms. Jennifer Hurst, Australian Federal Police Commander. Introduction by spokesman Thomas Aling.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to this press meeting of the Joint Investigation Team - in short JIT - which is conducting the criminal investigation into the downing of flight MH17 on 17 July 2014.

The official languages of the press conference are Dutch and English.

In the JIT, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine are working closely together. This collaboration is intensive, constructive and focused on one common goal which is: finding out what happened and who are responsible for it.

Today we we will make a number of specific requests and will give you partial insight into the progress of the investigation. The speeches in this press meeting will be given by representatives of three JIT partners: Mr. Fred Westerbeke, Chief Public Prosecutor of the National Public Prosecution Service in the Netherlands and also Coordinator of the Joint Investigation Team, Mr. Wilbert Paulissen Head of the National Criminal Investigation Service of the Netherlands Police and Ms. Jennifer Hurst, Australian Federal Police Commander.

Subsequently there will be a short opportunity to ask questions, followed by the 1 to 1 interviews with the representatives of the JIT countries.

The spoken texts and the visual material used will be made available at the end of the press meeting via the websites of the JIT, the Dutch Public Prosecution Service and the police.

I will now give the floor to the Chief Public Prosecutor of the National Public Prosecutor’s Office, Mr. Fred Westerbeke.

Fred Westerbeke


Today, the JIT will sketch part of the progress of the investigation, within the framework of a press conference. Later on, I will explain why. We will put forward a number of questions and call for witnesses to come forward.

First, I would like welcome all relatives who can follow this meeting via a livestream connection.

All JIT countries are present at this meeting today. I would like to welcome in particular Ms Jennifer Hurst from Australia and the gentlemen Vasyl Hrytzak and Dmytro Storozhuk from Ukraine, Mohamad Hanafiah Bin Zakaria and Dato' Mohd Zakaria B Ahmad, from Malaysia and from Belgium Frederic de Leew and Stanny de Vlieger.

On 28 September 2016, the JIT extensively presented the first results of the criminal investigation into the downing of flight MH17 on 17 July 2014.

Our main conclusion was that on the basis of the criminal investigation results it could be established that Flight MH17 was shot down on 17 July 2014 by a BUK missile from the 9M38 series, which was fired from an agricultural field in the area of Pervomaiskyi. At that time this area was controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

The presentation also demonstrated that the missile from the 9M38 series was fired by a BUK TELAR. This BUK TELAR was brought in from the territory of the Russian Federation and was returned to Russian Federation territory after use.

The questions that everyone wants answered from day one are: Why was flight MH17 shot down? And who are responsible for this horrendous act? I cannot give you the answer to these specific questions today.

We will however present some investigation results.

It should be clear that the criminal investigation is a large and complex investigation that is steadily progressing. Independence, carefulness and professionalism are paramount.We are steadily progressing.

The investigation has been going on for almost 4 years and is still of the highest priority. Every day dozens of investigators, prosecutors and other experts from different countries are still working on the investigation and in this way contributing to the discovery of the truth. And we will continue to do so until we are done.

That is not an easy task and the circumstances remain difficult. Part of he information required - mostly of foreign military origin - is secret. Getting this information takes time. Moreover, the investigation area in eastern Ukraine is still inaccessible to the investigation team. Fortunately a lot of telecomdata are still available in Ukraine. That is why the permanent presence of a part of the investigation team in Kiev and the cooperation with our partners over there, is all the more important.

Nevertheless, considerable steps have been taken lately in identifying those directly involved. On 28 September 2016, we reported about a group of about 100 people, who in one way or another can be associated with the downing of flight MH17. Significant steps have been taken in this area. Meanwhile, the role of a large number of them is much clearer

It may damage the investigation and the final legal proceedings if we make clear to those responsible for this event - and the other parties involved - how much we know exactly.
You will therefore understand that the courtroom is pre-eminently the place where the Public Prosecution Service will comment on the accusation of - and the burden of proof against – individual persons. It is then up to the court to pass judgment.

Now I would like to give the floor to Mr. Wilbert Paulissen, head of the National Criminal Investigation Service of the Netherlands Police. Among other matters, he will inform you about an important conclusion in the investigation regarding the BUK TELAR and explain which findings led to that conclusion of the JIT.

Wilbert Paulissen

Ladies and gentlemen,

As Mr. Westerbeke just said, I will discuss additional investigation results relating to the BUK-TELAR that shot down flight MH17 on 17 July 2014.

The JIT has carefully examined all available images from 17 and 18 July 2014 of this BUK-TELAR. This has enabled us to conclude that this BUK-TELAR has many unique features. On the basis of these specific characteristics, the JIT has been able to make a fingerprint, as it were, of this BUK-TELAR.

After an extensive and labor-intensive comparative investigation, in which many BUK-TELARs were involved, the JIT has come to the conclusion that the BUK-TELAR that shot down flight MH17 comes from the 53rd Anti Aircraft Missile Brigade, or the 53rd Brigade from Kursk in the Russian Federation. This 53rd Brigade is a unit of the Russian armed forces. In 2014 the 53rd Brigade consisted of three operational batallions. It employs several hundred people in staff, supporting and operational units. 
An anti-aircraft brigade is charged with defending the airspace against enemy targets.

Earlier, the investigation collective Bellingcat came up with the same conclusion.

As a JIT, we carry out our own independent investigation and the conclusions we draw from that investigation must be based on legal and convincing evidence which, will stand in the courtroom. The collection of this evidence - and the validation thereof - must be done carefully and that takes a lot of time.

We are convinced that our findings confirm the conclusion that the BUK-TELAR which was used, originated from the 53rd Brigade.

You will now see the animation of our findings. It contains several images made along the way this BUK-TELAR traveled on 23, 24 and 25 June 2014. The JIT could compare those images to the footage of 17 and 18 July 2014, and the fingerprint of the BUK-TELAR. This eventually led to the match.

A selection of the characteristics comprising the fingerprints is included in the animation.

The conclusions regarding the involvement of the 53rd Brigade are supported by other findings such as witness evidence.

As the JIT, we are determined to continue collecting further evidence. 298 innocent people died as a result of the taking down of flight MH17. And the JIT will prove who are responsible.

With the finding that the BUK TELAR originated from the 53rd Brigade, another significant step has been taken in the investigation. We are getting close, so this is the time to come forward with your information.

The JIT therefore urgently appeals to anyone who can provide us with useful information.

We want to know more about the deployment of this BUK TELAR on 17 July 2014. We are looking for people who are directly or indirectly involved in the downing of MH17, but also for people who were responsible for the operation in which that BUK TELAR was deployed.

  • Who was part of the crew?
  • What was the instruction given to them?
  • Who was responsible for the operational deployment of this BUK TELAR on 17 July 2014?
  • And finally: who can give us more information about procedures and responsible persons within this Brigade?

We are convinced many people have this information. This can be staff members of the 53rd Brigade, but also family members, friends or acquaintances. And even people who have no connection at all with the 53rd Brigade. If you know the answers to these questions or if you know people who can provide answers, please contact the JIT.

I specifically address the people who have answers to the questions I just mentioned or who know who has relevant information. You can turn to us. We wish to stress that all information is treated with the utmost confidentiality. On the website of the JIT you can read how you can contact us in a safe and confidential way.

I thank you for your attention and will now give the floor to Jennifer Hurst, Australian Federal Police Commander.

Jennifer Hurst

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am going to tell you more about the type of missile that was used to shoot down MH17. As we know, it was a BUK missile from the 9M38 series.

In parts of the plane wreckage as well as in bodies of victims and on the crash site, different parts of this type of missile were found. These parts were secured by the JIT and carefully examined by forensic experts.

For example, examinations were conducted into the presence of explosive substances, the elemental composition of certain metal parts and analysis of paints. Also, pieces of debris and parts found on the crash site were visually compared with reference material, consisting of various BUK missiles available to the JIT. In addition, a missile was detonated in a controlled environment, so that comparisons could also be made with parts of a detonated missile.

All findings from this forensic investigation confirm the earlier conclusion of the JIT that Flight MH17 was shot down by a 9M38 series BUK missile.

I will now talk specifically about two parts of the 9M38 series BUK missile, called ‘venturi’ and ‘casing’. The venturi is the exhaust of the missile and by casing we mean the shell of the missile engine.

A venturi and a casing were found in Eastern Ukraine. The JIT already showed you the venturi in September 2016. You may have seen the casing in the Safety Board (OVV) report.

The JIT has no doubt the casing and venturi originate from a 9M38 series BUK missile. To complete the tactical investigation we want to draw your attention to three specific characteristics of these two parts.

The animation will highlight where these parts are located in the missile. The JIT also has a few questions about this matter. I'll come back to that in a moment.

Enlarge image Exhaust of the missile - venturi (MH17)
The exhaust of the missile
Enlarge image Casing missile engine (MH17)
The casing of the missile engine

For your information: These are the the actual venturi and casing. The animation showed the numbers on the venturi and the casing.

We urgently appeal to everyone - anywhere in the world - who can give the JIT more information about the following:

  • Do you recognize the handwriting of the number on the venturi?
  • Do you have information about the numbers on the venturi and the casing? Of do you know someone who can tell us what these numbers mean?
  • Do you know or know someone who knows to which unit this missile is delivered?
  • Are you or do you know someone with information about the missile in which these parts have been placed and to which unit this missile was delivered?

If you have answers to any of the questions about the venturi or casing, we urge you to contact the JIT. On the website of the JIT you can read more detailed questions.

We understand this is confidential information. I would therefore emphasize once again that all information and informants are treated with the utmost confidentiality by the JIT. Our investigators can speak to you in different languages, including Russian and Ukrainian.

Now I would like to give the floor to Mr Westerbeke for the conclusion.

Conclusion – Fred Westerbeke

Today, the JIT has concluded that the BUK TELAR which was used to shoot down flight MH17 originated from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade of the Russian armed forces.

This observation raises questions, such as the question whether the Brigade itself was actively involved in the downing of flight MH17 on 17 July 2014. An important question, which the JIT is still investigating.

So far, the Russian authorities have not yet reported to the JIT that a BUK of the 53rd Brigade was deployed in Eastern Ukraine and that it was used to shoot down flight MH17. Already on 15 October 2014, we asked the Russian authorities to give us (in line with UN Security Council resolution 2166) all information that may be relevant to the discovery of the truth.

Because the JIT no longer wants to turn exclusively to the Russian authorities to obtain information on this subject, today - via the media - we also call in the help of the public to answer questions about control and use of the BUK TELAR, as well as about the missile that was probably launched with that TELAR.

On behalf of the JIT, I would like to thank you all for your presence here today.

Spokesman – Thomas Aling

Now you will be given the opportunity to ask questions. These will be answered by Mr. Westerbeke, Mr. Paulissen and Ms. Hurst.

If you want to ask a question, please stand up and wait for the microphone so that your question can be heard by everyone. Then say your name, the medium you are working for and to whom you address your question. The questions will be answered in English, as much as possible.

After this plenary round of questions, there will be an opportunity for short 1 to 1 interviews with the representatives of the five JIT countries. You may also take pictures or videos of venturi and the casing.