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MH17 calls ‘show ties between Russian officials, rebels

THE HAGUE: Investigators looking into the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine released intercepted phone calls on Thursday showing close links between “high-ranking” Russian officials and rebel suspects facing trial over the crash.

The international probe said the communications raised questions about the possible involvement of top officials in Moscow in the deployment of the missile that shot down the Malaysia Airlines plane in 2014.

The intercepts also showed that ties between the Kremlin and fighters from the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine were “much closer” than originally believed, the probe said.

“There was almost daily telephone contact between the leadership of the DPR and their contacts in the Russian Federation,” the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team said in a statement.

“They spoke with leaders in Moscow, near the border with Ukraine and in Crimea. Communication mostly took place via secure telephones provided by the Russian security service.”

The investigation team is appealing for more witnesses ahead of the trial in the Netherlands next year of three Russian nationals and one Ukrainian over the downing of the jet.

The passenger plane travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down by a Russian-made BUK missile in 2014 over rebel-held eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

Investigators have previously said the missile was transported to Ukraine from a Russian army anti-aircraft brigade based in the Russian city of Kursk.

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