Russian soldiers shot down MH17: report

New details in the search for the faces behind the BUK missiles that shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine point to Russia. The BBC program Panorama spoke to eye witnesses who give evidence to support the claim. This new information comes hours before the Dutch government is to publish its own first report in the ongoing investigation.

Shrapnel damage to the plane initially gave support to the allegation that the passenger jet was shot down by a surface-to-air missile, such as a BUK. Pro-Russian rebels controlling the area at the time denied possession of such weaponry, and the Kremlin suggested the missile came from a Ukrainian fighter jet, the BBC writes.

The program Panorama spoke to three civilian eyewitnesses who separately told reporters that they saw a missile launcher in the rebel-held area just hours before the plane was shot down. One witness says he saw the launcher being offloaded around ten miles from the crash site.

The eyewitnesses believe that the missile controllers were Russian. Not pro-Russian rebels, but Russian military. Two separate eyewitnesses state that the men were in military garb not worn by Ukrainian military or rebels. One saw an officer in a military jeep escorting the BUK missile. They also claim that the accent they heard was not Ukrainian Russian, but distinctly Muscovite. "They had pure Russian accents. They say the letter 'g' differently to us", one eyewitness said.

If the eyewitnesses are correct, then the BUK crew may have been part of the Kremlin's 'Ghost Army', the BBC writes. This is a troop of thousands of Russian soldiers who have allegedly been secretly infiltrating the country, supporting pro-Russian rebels.

Since the tragic crash of flight MH17, there has been no clear culprit. Though mounting evidence tips the blame towards Russia, the Kremlin has always denied being directly involved. Indirect involvement through the support of pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine has also been staunchly denied, despite local eyewitness images of heavy Russian military hardware suggesting the contrary.

As the evidence against Russian President Putin and his actions in Eastern Ukraine steadily tips the scale, it may become time for the Kremlin to take responsibility for the death of the 298 passengers and crew who died in the crash.

This information comes just hours before the Dutch Safety Board will publish their first details about the crash at 10 a.m. local Netherlands time. The investigative team's first priority has been to answer the question of whether the plane was indeed shot down. The investigative team in the area has taken longer than usual to publish the report due to issues being able to reach the crash site.

The Investigative Council is only concerned with the improvement of security in air traffic, and its report will therefore not give evidence towards a culprit. The Public Prosecution Authority is investigating the criminal offense aspect, but says that it could take years to build up a substantial case.