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Head of the international Joint Investigative Team, Fred Westerbeke revealed that the member countries may provide special measures for protection to crown witnesses. Among the considered measures are also provision of new identity and new country of residence provided by the JIT member countries including Australia.
Each case will be considered individually, Westerbeke explained.
“When telling the truth to investigators will pose danger to a witness the different options of personal security will be considered. The number of countries are part of the investigation. Australia has the perfect program for security to a crown witness.”, Westerbeke said.
He repeated that such measures will be considered if it will be a guarantee of security for important witnesses.
“In two years we made incredible progress in the investigation. Not only in that stage that was summarized during the press conference but in the search for suspects responsible for the shooting down of MH17 flight.”, Westerbeke informed.
Head of investigating team revealed that the JIT send telephone messages to the 50,000 Donetsk residents in Ukraine, who, as it turned out, were in the area at the time of the launch. Investigators identified these people after analysis of the mobile telephone signals from the telephone transmitters.
The head of the Dutch national detective force Willbert Paulissen who also was interviewed said that the JIT team aired video messages to the Eastern Ukrainians asking potential witnessed to step forward.
“After that call more than two hundred people contacted us through our website or telephone number.”, Paulissen said.
He added that the witnesses believe that the investigators will not leave them in danger because JIT puts every effort to protect its sources. Some photos presented during the press conference of the international investigative team were photoshopped if it was believed that the leaving background may pose danger to their authors. Paulissen informed also that the investigators have a team of Russian and Ukrainian speakers.
Fred Westerbeke and the head of the Dutch national detective force Willbert Paulissen spoke in an interview during the news program on Dutch television.
Russia provided false information to the MH17 investigators
On Wednesday, September 28, the Joint Investigative team during the press conference provided proof that Russian Federation tried to mislead the international team of investigators providing false information on the launch site.
Revealing information provided by the Russian government on the request for legal assistance to the Netherlands Mr. Paulissen said that investigators were suggested two locations nearby the Zaroshchenskoye in Eastern Ukraine as a potential launch site. These was false information.
“Joint Investigative Committee investigated several launch locations including two nearby Zaroshchenskoye. Why did the investigators research these locations? Because Russian Ministry of Defence suggested the site as a potential launch site.”, Paulissen said.
Russian Federation also mentioned at the time of the launch this area was controlled by Ukraine.
“We investigated this site and we have been able to establish that this was not the launch location. Moreover at the time of the launch this area was not controlled by the Ukrainian army but rather controlled by pro-Russian fighters.”, Paulissen explained.
Investigators provided plethora of evidence that included intercepted telephone conversation between the pro-Russian fighters discussing the place of the missile launch year after the tragedy.
“Zaroshchenskoye was under our control”, a man on the phone said. “It had not been down from over there. “As it had been down we were at the place. I do remember…”, he added.
Paulissen informed that the investigation was conducted in various countries
In 2015 the team of the investigators went to the area and measured the distance between telephone towers (masts), took samples of the soil. Investigators and the Dutch Magistrate also heard witnesses.
All this evidence allowed the JIT to conclude that the launch site was farmland in vicinity to Pervomayske. The field size is approximately five hundred by six hundred meters. This is the highest spot in the area within the radius of five kilometers. The farmland is surrounded by trees except the Western side.
Another evidence was provided by the Dutch Safety Board that has concluded that the missile had to be fired from the location in that area.
“At the time of the launch these territory was controlled by pro-Russian fighters”, Paulissen said.
The Dutch chief investigator emphasized that the conclusion is supported by the materials JIT received from the United States and the European Space Agency.
What material was provided by the United States and the European Space Agency?
In response to the Netherlands request for legal assistance the United States provided report with their assessment regarding the downing of flight MH17.
“This report may be used in court by us”, Paulissen said.
The conclusion of the American authorities is that MH17 was shot down by MS11 surface to air missile that is the BUK missile launched from the site about six kilometers south of the village of Snizhne in Eastern Ukraine. This is consistent with the location of launch site near Pervomayske.
The authors of the US report also explained how they arrived to this conclusion. The Dutch military intelligence MIVD and the Dutch National Prosecutor that have been able to view the supporting material that is state secret arrived to the same conclusion.
Paulissen said that the European Space Agency “not only provided relevant satellite images to the investigators but also experts”, who have been able to assess them. He added that the conclusions drawn by the ESA confirm conclusions of the international investigative team.
How long the investigation will last?
The international investigators repeatedly said that the team does not know when the investigation will be concluded.
“I can not tell you how long the investigation will take. JIT mandate was prolonged to the beginning of 2018.”, Westerbeke informed.
Thirty eight Australians and permanent residents died in the shooting down MH17 flight that killed all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board.