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Dutch Investigators: MH17 Brought Down By 'High-Energy Objects'

A pro-Russian rebel touches MH17 wreckage at the crash site of the Malaysian airliner near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, in July.
Vadim Ghirda
A pro-Russian rebel touches MH17 wreckage at the crash site of the Malaysian airliner near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, in July.

An initial investigation by Dutch experts appears to support the long-held theory of what happened to MH17 over eastern Ukraine: The Malaysian airliner was brought down by multiple "high-energy objects from outside the aircraft."

Although the preliminary technical report by the Dutch Safety Board did not directly say the objects were surface-to-air missiles, it left little room to conclude otherwise.

Teri Schultz, reporting for NPR, says the report concludes there was "extensive damage to the plane's fuselage [and] holes pockmarking the metal of the cockpit caused by objects coming from outside the aircraft."

"The report confirms it broke up in the air, [and that] its wreckage scattered over a very large area, where most of it remains today, as fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian armed forces has made the site too dangerous for these investigators to visit," Teri says.

The report out of the Netherlands said there was "no evidence of technical or human error."

The Boeing 777, carrying 298 passengers and crew, careened into the Ukrainian countryside over rebel-held territory on July 17, killing everyone aboard.

Kiev and the West quickly blamed the rebels, saying they'd used a Russian-made BUK missile battery — possibly with assistance from Russian technicians, a charge both the separatists and the Kremlin have denied.

In the preliminary report out of the Netherlands, investigators said:

" 'The damage observed in the forward section of the aircraft appears to indicate that the aircraft was penetrated by a large number of high-energy objects from outside the aircraft,' the report said.

" 'The initial results of the investigation point toward an external cause of the MH17 crash,' the board's chairman, Tjibbe Joustra, said in a statement. '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.' "

The investigators relied on information obtained by the flight data recorders, air traffic control, satellite images and photos from the scene, according to the BBC.

The investigators noted that three other very large commercial airliners flew over the same area at about the same time.

The board is leading the international investigation into the cause of the disaster. Its full report is expected within a year of the crash, The Associated Press says.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.