GILZE-RIJEN AIR BASE, the Netherlands?Investigators probing the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 have concluded that a sophisticated, Russian-made antiaircraft missile struck the Boeing Co. 777 jetliner causing it to break apart in midair, killing all 298 people on board.
The Buk missile was fired from eastern Ukraine, Tjibbe Joustra, chairman of the Dutch Safety Board said as the agency that leads the crash investigation published its final report. It is the first time those involved in the probe have publicly endorsed the long-held view such a missile was used to shoot down the passenger plane.
The crash investigators weren't assigning blame for who fired the missile. A separate criminal probe investigating culpability is continuing. A spokesman for the Dutch National Public Prosecution Service said that process won't be completed until next year.
The safety board is leading the investigation into the cause of the crash because 193 Dutch citizens were on board the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was downed while cruising at 33,000 feet on July 17, 2014.
Ukraine has accused Russian-backed militants operating in the area of shooting down the plane, while the rebels have suggested Ukrainian forces were responsible. Russia in July vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution to establish an international criminal tribunal to investigate the downing.
The Russian maker of the antiaircraft missile on Tuesday tried to cast doubt on the Dutch findings in advance of the release of the crash report. Almaz Antey gathered hundreds of journalists Tuesday morning in a complex in outer Moscow, where Chief Executive Yan Novikov argued that its experiments showed that if MH17 was downed by a Buk system, it was hit by a different type of missile than Dutch investigators specified.
The investigation had been complicated by continued fighting in Ukraine, which at times hindered access to the crash site. Parts of the airplane have been brought to the Netherlands for reconstruction at the Gilze-Rijen air base.
Investigators over the summer recovered several pieces of debris, possibly from a Buk missile, which were found in eastern Ukraine in recent months and taken to the Netherlands for analysis.
The shootdown has elevated concerns among aviation safety officials about commercial airline flights near conflict zones. Ukrainian authorities had declared the airspace where the Malaysian plane was brought down safe despite the downing of several military planes in the area at lower altitudes in the days preceding the shoot down of Flight 17.
The heightened state of alert last week led air safety authorities to issue a warning to airlines after Russia fired a barrage of cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea against targets in Syria. Several carriers, including Malaysia Airlines, have rerouted planes in response.