By Abdullah Asiran
A Russian missile shot down Flight MH17 in Ukraine in 2014, an international investigation team said Thursday.
At a news conference in The Hague, Netherlands, the joint investigation team (JIT) said the missile that downed the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 resembled another Russian-made Buk missile that crossed into Ukraine from the Russian city Kursk four weeks prior to the incident.
The team said a Russian 53rd anti-aircraft brigade was in possession of the missile.
The team added that the assailant would be announced once the investigation is completed.
The Kuala Lumpur-bound flight from Amsterdam was shot down above the troubled state of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, claiming the lives of 298 people.
In an interim report released in September 2016, the JIT determined that Flight MH17 was brought down from pro-Russian separatist-controlled territory in Ukraine. Most of the dead were Dutch nationals.
Interim JIT findings confirmed an earlier technical report by the Dutch Safety Board that the aircraft was undeniably hit by a surface-to-air missile.
The JIT's report also said the launch site was located near Pervomaiskyi -- a city in Kharkiv, Ukraine which was under the control of pro-Russian rebels at the time.
Moscow denies participation in tragedy
In response to the JIT statement, the Russian Defense Ministry rejected the accusations.
"The Defense Ministry of Russia, both in the first hours after the tragedy and later, officially refuted the insinuations of the Ukrainian side about the alleged participation of Russian military personnel in the accident in the sky of Ukraine and provided the Dutch investigative group with the relevant evidence," the statement said.
Russia is concerned that the investigators "focused on the justification of its findings through the use of only images from social networks subjected to skillful processing by computer graphic editing," it said.
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said those responsible must be held accountable.
“I commend the professional, independent work of the Joint Investigation Team on #MH17. As the UN Security Council concluded, those responsible must be held to account. Almost four years since this global tragedy, it is important that justice is served,” Stoltenberg posted on Twitter.
The U.S. further voiced "complete confidence" in the JIT's findings
"It is time for Russia to cease its lies and account for its role in the shoot down," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. "We remain confident in the ability of the Dutch criminal justice system to prosecute those responsible in a manner that is fair and just."