With new evidence emerging, international investigators now believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin likely approved the supply of a missile system to pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine that was used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July 2014.

The investigative group, known as the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), said in a statement on Thursday that it has discovered compelling evidence indicating that Russian-made Buk missile launcher was used in the attack that killed all 298 people on board the Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight.

The JIT said that it had “established that the BUK-TELAR that shot down MH17 came from 53rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade, a unit of the Russian army from Kursk in the Russian Federation.”

Individuals move through the wreckage at the scene of the MH17 catastrophe close to Grabovo Village, Ukraine, on July 17, 2014. (AP/Dmitry Lovetsky)

The group also said that the missile launcher was transported from Russia to a launch site in east Ukraine and was then used to fire a 9M38 series missile at the jet.

The JIT said that the missile launcher was returned to Russia following the attack and that the operation to move it back was “probably” approved by the highest level of Russian military command.

The JIT said it had identified a number of individuals who played an important role in the transport of the Buk missile launcher, and that those people were connected to the Russian military. The JIT added that these people are likely to have had the knowledge that the Buk launcher would be used to shoot down a civilian aircraft.

The JIT also said that it had identified some of the Russian military officials who were in charge of the brigade when the launcher was sent to Ukraine.

The investigation has been ongoing since the plane was downed by what Dutch prosecutors call a “Russian-made Buk surface-to-air missile.” The JIT said it had identified 100 people who may have played a role in the attack and was now in the process of gathering information regarding the individuals’ identities.

The JIT’s Thursday statement comes more than four years after the MH17 flight was shot down and brought the tragedy to the world’s attention. The incident also left a deep rift between the West and Russia, with many countries expelling Russian diplomats in response to the attack.

The JIT also said that a criminal prosecution will now be launched against those responsible for the downing of the plane. However, it is unclear which courts will be involved in the proceedings.

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