15

It has been widely reported that the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 crash was caused by the plane being shot down.

Example sources:

It seems to be treated as a given fact that the incident was caused by it being shot down, but I can't seem to find any published evidence of this - only things like "without going into detail about the intelligence that was obtained..."

What evidence is there that the incident was caused by the plane being attacked?

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    @rjzii. If that is the best evidence, please write it in an answer. The OP doesn't need to defend his/her skepticism. By asking here, all they are doing is looking for the best evidence. If consensus amongst countries is the best evidence, we can just say that in an answer. – user5582 Jul 20 '14 at 16:01
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    @rjzii Well just because countries agree on something I shouldn't be sceptical?! I thought that's exactly the purpose of this site... The link you posted contains the words "shot down airliner" in its title, yet fails to provide specific evidence. – Schkikli Jul 20 '14 at 17:51
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    I don't see how there is any other interpretation of this question other than the OP looking for evidence behind the claim that the airplane was shot down. – user5582 Jul 21 '14 at 2:41
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    You don't need to convince the OP. The correct answer is the one that presents the best evidence. – user5582 Jul 21 '14 at 3:09
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    FWIW, I like this question. I think it is important to question media sources, to discuss contemporary topics on this site in a skeptical light, and to use topics of interest to illustrate critical thinking. In this sense, I personally feel there are better actions than down-voting the question. As for an answer, I'm with @Articuno in feeling that the OP is looking for the best evidence. It also helps in an answer show the appropriate framing of thought for Q&A on this site. But pigeonholing every question into some skeptics idealogy is counterintuitive and unproductive. – Brian M. Hunt Jul 30 '14 at 23:47
60

Note that the URIs of the reports by the Dutch Safety Board seem to change from time to time as apparently their website gets reorganised. I'll try to keep the links in this answer up to date.
Failing that, the main page on the investigation of the crash of Flight MH17 seems to be stable enough and the reports are all linked from there. Another option is going to the main site of the Dutch Safety Board and searching for MH17.


Yes.

On Tuesday, October 13, 2015, the Dutch Safety Board released the final report on their investigation of the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17.

In the report, the Board states that the plane was struck by a 9N314M warhead carried on a 9M38-series missile fired from a Buk surface-to-air missile system. The missile was fired from a region of about 320 square kilometres in the east of Ukraine.

Findings

The combination of the recorded pressure wave, the damage pattern found on the wreckage caused by blast and the impact of fragments, the bow-tie shaped fragments found in the cockpit and in the body of one of the crew members in the cockpit, the injuries sustained by three crew members in the cockpit, the analysis of the in-flight break-up, the analysis of the explosive residues and paint found, and the size and distinct, bow-tie, shape of some the fragments, led the Dutch Safety Board to conclude that the aeroplane was struck by a 9N314M warhead as carried on a 9M38-series missile and launched by a Buk surface-to-air missile system.

3.7 Source of the damage, page 137

and

Findings

  • The area from which the possible flight paths of a 9N314M warhead carried on a 9M38-series missile as installed on the Buk surface-to-air missile system could have commenced is about 320 square kilometres in the east of Ukraine.
  • Further forensic research is required to determine the launch location. Such work falls outside the mandate of the Dutch Safety Board, both in terms of Annex 13 and the Kingdom Act ‘Dutch Safety Board’.

3.8 Simulations to assess the origin of the damage, page 147

and

Findings

  • Simulations showed that the observed damage and the modelled fragment pattern resulted in an estimated detonation location of the warhead to the left and above of the cockpit.
  • Simulations demonstrated that the detonation of a 70 kg warhead best matched the damage observed on the wreckage of the aeroplane.
  • The simulations performed indicated that the detonation location of a 9N314M warhead was in a volume of space that is less than one cubic metre and about four metres above the tip of the aeroplane’s nose on the left side of the cockpit.
  • The damage to the wreckage recovered was consistent with the predictions made by the simulation of the blast caused by the detonation of a 70 kg warhead.

The above mentioned findings are consistent with the conclusion of the Dutch Safety Board that flight MH17 was struck by a 9N314M warhead as carried on a 9M38 series missile and launched by a Buk surface-to-air missile system.

3.10 Summary of the results of the simulations into the causes of the crash, page 150

 
Also, in MH17 About the investigation, the Board states:

The Russian Federation indicated that the aeroplane was downed by a missile that could have been fired from either the ground or an aeroplane. This standpoint deviated from what was jointly subscribed during the first and second meetings (also by the Russian Federation). The third meeting was closed with the joint conclusion (thus by the Russian Federation as well) that the aeroplane was hit by high-energy objects of a missile that detonated in front of and to the left of the cockpit. This joint conclusion is less far-reaching than the conclusions in the investigation report on the crash of flight MH17.

1.4 Conducting the investigation, page 20

So even the least far-reaching conclusion that all parties to the investigation agree on, is that
flight MH17 was shot down by a missile.


Additionally, the partial reconstruction of the plane was shown at the release of the report. It was open to next of kin and journalists; I don't know if it is or has been open to the general public.


My original answer, based on the preliminary report:

The preliminary report on the crash by the Dutch Safety Board reads:

Based on the preliminary findings to date, no indications of any technical or operational issues were found with the aircraft or crew prior to the ending of the CVR and FDR recording at 13.20:03 hrs.

The damage observed in the forward section of the aircraft appears to indicate that the aircraft was penetrated by a large number of high-energy objects from outside the aircraft. It is likely that this damage resulted in a loss of structural integrity of the aircraft, leading to an in-flight break up.

Preliminary report - Crash involving Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 flight MH17, chapter 3, Summary of findings, page 30

This indicates that flight MH17 was indeed shot down.

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    @Schkikli is there anything I can add to make this answer more ehr... acceptable? – SQB Mar 1 '18 at 11:10
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    It's unfortunate that the OP has lost interest in this question since this is the correct answer quoting and linking to official reports and sources as requested by the OP. Air crash investigation usually take a long time to complete because the purpose is not to satisfy news media but to prevent similar incidents in the future. – slebetman Jun 21 '18 at 17:58
  • @slebetman OP hasn't been seen on this site in almost 4 years, I doubt he or she even remembers ever having been here, for good or ill. – jwenting Jun 22 '18 at 11:44
  • @jwenting Yes, and it's unfortunate – slebetman Jun 22 '18 at 22:19
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Is there any first hand evidence, accessible to the public, showing MH17 was shot down?

No, nor should we expect any.

As in almost all cases, the public do not have direct personal access to evidence of the causes of an aircraft loss. For example, It is not possible for me to visit the site of the wreckage and I lack the forensic expertise to make an assessment of causes by examining marks, residues and deformation of the wreckage. I do not have direct personal access to military surveillance systems. I cannot organize my own team of trusted investigators to research the past movements and actions of individual members of various armed forces in the region.

All that we can do is make our own assessment of the likely causes. Lacking expertise and access to the evidence, we have to rely on second or third hand reports. In general, we place our trust in investigation teams and wait for their reports.

Is there any evidence, accessible to investigators, showing MH17 was shot down?

Yes

The incident occurred on 17th July 2014. In September 2014 the Dutch investigation team published a preliminary report which says

The damage observed in the forward section of the aircraft appears to indicate that the aircraft was penetrated by a large number of high-energy objects from outside the aircraft. It is likely that this damage resulted in a loss of structural integrity of the aircraft, leading to an in-flight break up.

and

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.

So there exists first-hand evidence showing MH17 was (probably) shot down. However members of the general public do not have direct personal hands-on access to the recovered debris nor to the chain of evidence of custody of that debris that clearly ties it to the crash site, etc.


Alleged evidence reported by news organisations

Prior to these reports, (in this case, at the date the question was asked here,) we rely on reports from news organisations and we weigh what they say according to our personal assessment of their trustworthiness.

If you believe that CNN has reasonable journalistic integrity you might take into account what they report:

A radar system saw a surface-to-air missile system turn on and track an aircraft right before the plane went down, a senior U.S. official told CNN's Barbara Starr. And a second system saw a heat signature at the time the airliner was hit. The United States is analyzing the trajectory of the missile to pinpoint where the attack came from, the official said.

It is of course possible that the quoted U.S. Officials are misinformed or lying to CNN. We each have to use our own judgement to decide how probable we think that is given the circumstances.

ABC news in Australia report

Ukraine's Kyiv Post newspaper has posted what it says is a conversation between a separatist commander and Russian intelligence officer Vasili Geranin.

In the transcript, released by Ukraine's security service, the separatist, identified as Igor Bezler, says: "We have just shot down a plane. It fell down beyond Yenakievo (Donetsk Oblast)."

Of course, it would not be difficult for Ukraininan security services to make this recording using actors. There would be risks for them in concocting a false account but this possibility's likelihood is something we have to assess ourselves.


Other (unsubstantiated) reports - some are now behind a "paywall".


You can never really prove such things to 100% certainty, you can only decide what is the most probable cause based on evidence available at any moment. As new reports of evidence arrive we must reassess the probable cause.

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    I think the CNN quote is crucial here, as it gives the reasons for [governments and news outlets, and us mortals] believing that the plane has been shot down. I do not think the OP actually wanted to see the evidence for himself... – P_S Jul 21 '14 at 10:08
  • @P_S I actually do want to see the official reports and any other evidence, too. – Schkikli Jul 21 '14 at 21:01
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    @Schkikli That I can very well understand. But, as such things go, official reports - as opposed to, say, statements - tend to take many months to be written and published (and even then there are generally parts not made available to the public)... – P_S Jul 21 '14 at 21:06
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    Igor Girkin's apparent social media account is fake. He said many times he doesn't have ANY social media accounts, the only way he communicates on the web is through the official site - icorpus.ru. [Edited by Oddthinking] – Alex Jul 30 '14 at 18:38
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    @user568458: Good points. Answer updated. I haven't had time to find alternatives for the FT link. – RedGrittyBrick Nov 20 '14 at 10:24

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