By Dpa Correspondents, dpa
AMSTERDAM — Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 broke up in the air probably after being hit “by a large number of high-energy objects,” a preliminary Dutch report on the crash showed on Tuesday.
Images of the MH17 wreckage show that it was pierced in numerous places from the outside, causing the Boeing 777 to break up in flight July 17 over eastern Ukraine, the report said.
The Dutch Safety Board, which is leading the multination investigation, said it found no evidence that the crash resulted from a technical problem or crew error.
The report did not assign blame for the crash, but the United States and Ukraine accuse pro-Russian separatist rebels of downing the jet with a Russian-made Buk surface-to-air missile system.
The MH17 damage outlined by the investigators would be consistent with a strike from a missile from a Buk system, which detonate before hitting a target to maximize damage and improve the missile’s chances of destroying it.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the report backed his country’s view that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile and called on the international community to find and punish the perpetrators of the attack.
Separatist rebels said, however, that the Dutch crash report confirmed their conviction that Ukraine shot down the airliner.
“It is obvious that this was a provocation carried out by the Ukrainian armed forces to discredit Russia and the insurgency,” separatist commander Miroslav Rudenko told Russia’s Interfax news agency from the rebel-held city of Donetsk.
All 298 people on board the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were killed. A majority of the passengers were Dutch.
The Dutch Safety Board has not had access to the crash site, which is in an area that has seen fighting between Ukraine government forces and the rebels. It relied on photographs taken during short visits to the site by Ukrainian and Malaysian investigators, data from MH17’s cockpit voice and flight data recorders, air traffic control communications, satellite images, and radar information to issue its preliminary findings.
“The initial results of the investigation point towards an external cause of the MH17 crash,” said Tjibbe Joustra, chairman of the Dutch Safety Board. “More research will be necessary to determine the cause with greater precision.”
The board said it expected to release a final report by the first anniversary of the crash.
It said it plans to visit the crash site if it is safe to do so, and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak demanded that investigators be allowed to return.
The plane crashed near Hrabove village in the Donetsk region, an area controlled by the rebels, who restricted investigators’ access to the site.
“It is of the utmost importance that the investigation teams gain full and unfettered access to the crash site in order to recover all human remains, complete their investigation, and establish the truth,” Najib said.
However, his defense minister, Hishammudddin Hussein, said the crash site is “currently volatile and inaccessible” after meeting Tuesday with senior military officials in Kiev.
Malaysia was among the nations contributing to the investigation. They also include Ukraine, Australia, Russia, Britain, and the United States.
The initial inquiry found the plane “broke up in the air probably as the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside.”
The jet’s black boxes and its communications with air traffic controllers showed no emergency or technical problems but that the flight was operating normally until “it ended abruptly.”
The investigators said they believe the damage the plane sustained caused it to break up in-flight because its wreckage was scattered over a large area. Its communications with air traffic control also suddenly halted, it disappeared from radar, and the recording of data on its black boxes ended abruptly, the report said.
Before the report was issued, the remains of two more Malaysian victims of the crash were returned Tuesday to Kuala Lumpur, Najib said.
So far, 34 bodies of the 43 Malaysian victims have been repatriated from Amsterdam, where all the bodies were being examined by international forensics experts.
The other victims were 193 Dutch nationals, 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians, 10 Britons, four Germans, four Belgians, three Filipinos, a Canadian, and a New Zealander.
AFP Photo/Genya Savilov
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