A Dutch preliminary report into the Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash in eastern Ukraine has suggested that the plane broke up in the air due to a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from the outside, causing the deaths of 298 people.

The report, published by the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) also said that "there are no indications that the crash was caused by a technical fault or by actions of the crew".

"The initial results of the investigation point towards an external cause of the MH17 crash. More research will be necessary to determine the cause with greater precision. The Safety Board believes that additional evidence will become available for investigation in the period ahead," said Tjibbe Joustra, chairman of the DSB.

The report says that the pattern of the damage "is consistent with that which may be expected from a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside".

The DSB report includes details collected from the cockpit voice recorder, the flight data recorder, satellite images and radar information. It said that the voice recorder audio ended abruptly, with no aural warnings or alerts of malfunctions.

According to the DSB website, the preliminary report "provides an overview of the initial, provisional facts a relatively short time after the occurrence". It will publish the final "more extensive and in-depth" report at the end of the year.

Western countries have accused Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine of firing a Moscow-supplied surface-to-air missile that brought down the plane, killing 298 people on board, most of them Dutch

Igor 'Girkin' Strelkov, a powerful pro-Russia commander, posted a statement on VKontakte, Russia's version of Facebook, taking responsibility for the attack.

"We warned them not to fly in our sky," he wrote. The post was later deleted.

Moscow blamed Ukrainian air force for downing the plane.

The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was brought down between Krasni Luch in Luhansk and Shakhtarsk in the Donetsk region - both controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

Eyewitnesses told BBC Panorama that they saw a BUK missile launcher in the area before the crash.