Experts meeting in the Netherlands to study evidence in criminal probe into downing of MH17

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — International experts are meeting in the Netherlands to examine evidence in the criminal investigation into the downing last year of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, Dutch prosecutors announced Tuesday.

The three-week meeting will draw together experts in ballistics, weapons systems, explosives and other specialized fields such as metals and paints to conduct "an in-depth study of the available evidence," prosecutors said in a statement.

The meeting "must lead to a significant step forward in the criminal investigation and towards legal and convincing evidence in particular," according to the statement.

The Dutch Safety Board last month concluded that the Boeing 777 was brought down on July 17, 2014, by a Soviet-designed Buk missile, causing the plane to break up in midair and killing all 298 people on board.

Flight 17 was heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was brought down over conflict-torn eastern Ukraine. Russian-backed rebels and Ukrainian forces have accused one another of shooting down the plane.

The safety board report didn't apportion blame — that is up to the five-nation joint investigation team working to bring to justice those responsible. The team includes experts from the Netherlands, Australia, Malaysia, Belgium and Ukraine.

Among evidence they will study is a selection of soil samples gathered earlier this year from possible Buk launch sites and an in-depth examination into possible parts of a Buk missile, Dutch prosecutors said.

While the Dutch Safety Board already has said that MH17 was brought down by a Buk, criminal investigators say they need more time to definitively reach the same conclusion and meet the high burden of proof necessary for a criminal prosecution. Their probe is expected to extend into next year.

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