THE HAGUE: A Malaysian passenger jet which blew up over rebel-held east Ukraine with the loss of all 298 people on board was hit by numerous “high-energy objects”, according to a report Tuesday which could back up claims it was downed by a missile.
While the preliminary report from Dutch investigators does not point the finger of blame over the July disaster, it could heighten Western pressure against Moscow over its role in the bloody Ukraine conflict.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 “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,” said the Dutch Safety Board report.
International experts have been unable to access the rebel-held crash site northeast of Donetsk because of fighting, and have relied on information from the black boxes, Ukrainian officials, as well as pictures and video taken at the scene.
But the findings appear to back up claims that the Boeing 777, which plunged out of the sky on July 17 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was hit by a missile.
“The initial results of the investigation point towards an external cause of the MH17 crash,” said Tjibbe Joustra, chairman of the OVV safety board.
He said more work was needed to determine the cause with greater precision and that the final report was expected by July 2015.
Kiev and the West have accused pro-Russian separatists of shooting down the plane with a surface-to-air BUK missile supplied by Moscow.
The powerful weapon works by exploding directly outside the target and hitting it with a massive amount of high-velocity shrapnel.
But Russia, which rejects Western claims it has sent in elite troops and heavy weapons to bolster the pro-Kremlin insurgency, blamed Kiev’s forces.
And the insurgents again denied any role.
“I can say only one thing: we simply do not have the military hardware capable of shooting down a Boeing passenger jet such as the Malaysian plane, “Alexander Zakharchenko, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, told Russia’s Interfax new agency.
The downing of MH17 was the second tragedy for Malaysia Airlines after the mysterious disappearance of flight MH370 in March, and threw the global spotlight back on the uprising in eastern Ukraine.
“There are no indications that the MH17 crash was caused by a technical fault or by actions of the crew,” the OVV said.
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