A report by the Dutch Safety Board into the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 that fell in Eastern Ukraine in July, killing all 298 people on board, has found evidence that the plane was hit by "numerous objects." Separate eyewitness accounts said that Russians were operating the BUK missile launcher that is suspected of destroying the plane.
"Damage observed on the forward fuselage and cockpit section of the aircraft appears to indicate that there were impacts from a large number of high-energy objects from outside the aircraft," the report read.
"The pattern of damage observed in the forward fuselage and cockpit section of the aircraft was not consistent with the damage that would be expected from any known failure mode of the aircraft, its engines or systems. The fact that there were many pieces of aircraft structure distributed over a large area, indicated that the aircraft broke up in the air."
While the Dutch Safety Board did not speculate on the BUK missile launcher that Ukraine officials believe struck down the aircraft, it ruled out all human error and technical malfunction that could have caused the crash.
The report added: "No aural alerts or warnings of aircraft system malfunctions were heard on the Cockpit Voice Recorder. The communication between the flight crew members gave no indication of any malfunction or emergency prior to the occurrence."
"No engine or aircraft system warnings or cautions were detected. No technical malfunctions or warnings in relation to the event flight were found on Flight Data Recorder data."
Ukraine, most of the European Union and the United States have all accused pro-Russian rebels fighting in Eastern Ukraine of having downed the plane, though Russian President Vladimir Putin has continuously denied Russian involvement in the war in Ukraine and in the MH17 incident.
BBC Panorama reported on Monday, however, that eyewitnesses have said that Russians were spotted operating a BUK in the area where MH17 was shot down.
Three civilians separately came forward to share what they have seen, and all confirmed that the BUK was in the territory just hours before the flight was shot down.
"We just saw it being offloaded and when the BUK started its engine the exhaust smoke filled the whole town square," one eyewitness said.
He added that he believes the crew members operating the missile launcher were Russians: "Well-disciplined, unlike the rebels, and not wearing the standard Ukrainian camouflage uniform sported by government and rebel troops alike."
"They had pure Russian accents. They say the letter 'g' differently to us," he added.
MH17 was in route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it came down on July 17. Most of the victims were from the Netherlands, many others were Australians and Malaysians, and there was one confirmed American citizen on board.
Richard Westcott, BBC's transport correspondent, noted that the Dutch Safety Board effectively ruled out any scenario that could have taken down the plane except a missile hit.
"Both sides in this conflict use the same weapon. To find out who made this terrible mistake, they need to determine where on the ground the missile was actually launched from. And one expert told me that they should eventually be able to work that out with a combination of radar data and evidence from the scene," Westcott said.
The board has said that its final report is to be published within a year.