Investigators probing the 2014 downing of flight MH17 said Thursday for the first time that the missile which brought down the plane over eastern Ukraine originated from a Russian military brigade.
But Moscow quickly rejected the accusation, saying no such weapon had ever crossed the Russian-Ukrainian border and that it was an attempt to "discredit Russia in the eyes of the international community".
The Joint Investigation Team "has come to the conclusion that the BUK-TELAR that shot down MH17 came from 53rd Anti-aircraft Missile Brigade based in Kursk in Russia," top Dutch investigator Wilbert Paulissen said.
He told reporters gathered for a press conference in Utrecht that "the 53rd Brigade forms part of the Russian armed forces".
The Malaysian Airlines flight on a Boeing 777 was blown out of the sky over conflict-torn eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014 while en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
All 298 passengers and crew, most of them Dutch, were killed in the disaster. In all there were 17 nationalities on board including Australians, Britons, Malaysians and Indonesians.
The investigators had previously concluded that the plane was hit by a Russian-made BUK missile brought in from Russia and fired from territory in Ukraine held by Moscow-backed rebels. But they had stopped short of directly saying who pulled the trigger.
Jan Hennop and Charlotte van Ouwerkerk,AFP