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Dutch Investigation Concludes MH17 Shot Down, But Assigns No Blame

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And we are learning some more this morning about why a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet went down over Ukraine in July of last year. A report from Dutch safety officials made public this morning says the plane was destroyed by a Russia-made missile. That plane was flying over an area where separatists and their Russian allies were fighting the Ukrainian army. Families of those killed were briefed on this report before it came out. Two-thirds of the nearly 300 passengers on board were Dutch. And let's turn now to NPR's Eleanor Beardsley, who is in The Hague. Eleanor, good morning.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So begin by telling us what's in this report.

BEARDSLEY: Well, the report says that a ground-to-air missile exploded about a meter from the cockpit of the plane on the left side and ripped the cockpit off...

GREENE: Wow.

BEARDSLEY: ...And ripped the plane apart. It said also that basically the passengers did lose consciousness, so that no one suffered, and that was of great comfort to many of the families of the victims. It said it also found paint from this missile inside the plane. And the report said - what it did it said it wanted to address all of the conspiracy theories swirling around this horrible tragedy.

So it eliminated other options like an air-to-air missile that the Russians had said for a long time that a Ukrainian plane shot it down. That was impossible based on the evidence. And it was a very expensive investigation. They made a 3-D model of the plane. They built a frame and they hung the portions of the airplane that were recovered on it, and they did all sorts of tests. And so it's an extensive investigation.

GREENE: And, Eleanor, you said that the families of victims are taking some comfort in knowing that their family members did not suffer. I know this report doesn't answer all of their questions. How are they reacting? Is there some sense of closure?

BEARDSLEY: Well, you know, David, I did talk to some of them as they were coming out. They were willing to talk. One person told me we need someone brought to justice for this - the person who pushed the button who killed, you know, almost 300 people. But most of them did not ask for vengeance. They didn't seem to have a desire for vengeance. They said that they just had wanted to know what had happened and that this really did answer their questions. So they seemed satisfied about it.

GREENE: And I know that there is another report that is actually a criminal inquiry that might go beyond exactly how this plane was taken down and more to who was responsible. That'll be coming out at some point?

BEARDSLEY: They said that'll be coming out in the coming months, probably not before next year. But, David, that report - no one really expects anyone to be brought to justice. And there's no telling where a case like that would even be tried. So no one is really counting on that. There were seven parties that were taking part in this investigation, and Russia was actually one of them. And Russia accepts that it was a missile, but today, Russia held its own press conference. The maker of that Buk missile system held a press conference in Moscow today to show why that it was not possible that a missile launched from a Buk system hit that plane.

GREENE: All right, so there's still many unanswered questions, but some answers come out this morning in this Dutch safety report on that Malaysian Airlines passenger jet that went down over Ukraine in the summer of last year. Eleanor Beardsley in The Hague, thanks very much.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.