Dutch prosecutors plan to examine claims made by UK-based group, Bellingcat, accusing Russian soldiers of downing the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. The Kuala Lumpur-bound Boeing 777 had taken off from Amsterdam when it was struck by a surface-to-air missile.
Bellingcat, in its report, said that the BUK mobile launcher named by Dutch investigators came from a military convoy belonging to Russia's 53rd anti-aircraft brigade. Although the unit was based in Kursk, it was sent for manoeuvres near the Ukrainian border. The founder of the citizen investigative journalists group, Eliot Higgins, told Dutch TV channel NOS that his organisation had now identified 20 soldiers in this brigade.
"This is probably the group that either knows who fired or has that individual among them who did it. They had to know which of them pressed the button," Higgins said.
The Dutch Safety Board had previously said that the plane was brought down by a BUK surface-to-air 9M38-series missile launched from eastern Ukraine. Kiev and western nations, however, maintained that the missile was fired from pro-Russian separatist-held territory in Ukraine and pointed fingers at Moscow.
"We received the report just after Christmas. We will seriously study it and determine whether it can be used for the criminal inquiry," Wim de Bruin, a spokesman for the Dutch prosecutor's office, told AFP. The incident had sparked outrage in July 2014, after 283 passengers and 15 crew members on board were killed.
Before and after photos of the launcher from the day of the crash are viewable on Bellingcat's website. At least one of its missiles is shown missing in the photos taken after the crash of MH17.
Higgins said he, along with 11 volunteers from various countries, including the Netherlands, Germany, Poland and America, studied social media sites like Instagram, Twitter and the Russian version of Facebook called Vkontakte for a year to build the report.