A Dutch-led investigative panel into the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine said the plane was shot down by surface-to-air missile from a Russian-made Buk missile launcher.
Dutch officials announced their findings Tuesday at a conference center in The Hague, with a partially reconstructed portion of the plane looming in the background.
Battered metal fragments collected from the crash site were draped on a metal skeleton, reassembled by the investigators in an effort to determine exactly why the plane crashed into the Ukrainian countryside.
Tjibbe Joustra, chairman of the Dutch Safety Board, told family members and media that the plane was hit on the left side by shrapnel from the detonation of a missile fired from the ground. He said the plane broke up immediately, while still in the air.
Joustra said Ukraine was responsible for closing the airspace above the armed conflict zone and chose not do so.
"Nobody considered the possibility that civil aircraft at cruising altitude was at risk," he added.
The region was the scene of fighting between Russian-backed rebels and Ukrainian forces.
Safety of airspace
Joustra said the panel recommends that, in future, states with armed conflicts should put more effort into the safety of their airspace, and flight operators should be more transparent about the flight route they choose.
The majority of passengers on the Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur flight were Dutch, but the July 17, 2014, flight also contained citizens of Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, and Ukraine. Representatives from each of those countries were part of the investigation.
The Dutch panel did not assign blame for the crash, despite Western suspicions that Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine shot down the plane, mistaking it for a military aircraft.
Russia's state-run missile manufacturer, Almaz-Antey, said earlier Tuesday that its own investigation indicates that the Buk missile was fired from the town of Zaroshenske, which it said was under control of the Ukrainian government at the time of the accident.
Almaz-Antey head Yan Novikov also said Russian experts have concluded that the missile believed to have brought down the plane was an older Russian-made model, which is no longer used by the Russian military.
Some material for this report came from AP.