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When Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 flew into Ukrainian air space just after midday on July 17 it was one of three airliners being tracked by air traffic controllers in both Ukraine and Russia over a war zone. At the same time, somewhere on the ground, a missile battery’s radar was switched on and its crew were actively looking for a target.

But there is no mention of missiles in today’s report by Dutch air crash investigators into what brought down Flight MH17. Instead it details how the Boeing 777 was riddled with holes created by “a large number of high energy objects from the outside.” The report includes a photograph of the cockpit floor, found in the widely-strewn wreckage, punctured by numerous holes, indicating that the crew were killed instantly. The front part of the 777 broke away first, falling free. 

All of this is consistent with the airplane being struck by a barrage of shrapnel released when an anti-aircraft missile explodes—the warhead is designed not to explode on direct impact, it is triggered by a close proximity fuse to eviscerate the target.

Within days of the airplane’s destruction photographs taken by reporters at the site and examined by experts proved beyond any doubt that Flight MH17 had been targeted by a missile battery. But that was not within the remit of the Dutch investigators. Identifying the perpetrators of this appalling tragedy is a criminal matter, not a technical one.

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