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Putin urged to speak to relatives of flight MH17 air disaster

By Tom Wilkinson

Russian president Vladimir Putin should speak to families of the 298 people who died on flight MH17, the sister of one of the victims has said after Dutch investigators revealed it was brought down by a Russian-made missile.

The warhead exploded just outside the cockpit of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 as it passed over fighting in eastern Ukraine last July, causing the front of the plane to shear off.

A major inquiry by the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) did not set out to ascertain who was to blame but has indicated the Russian-made Buk was fired from a 320km square area, where, it is known, pro-Russian separatists were active.

For their part, Russian experts have blamed Ukrainian government forces for firing the missile.

Tracey Withers, whose brother Glenn Thomas was among the 10 Britons who died, told ITV that if Mr Putin had time to call Elton John, he should make the effort to speak to grieving relatives. The Russian leader had spoken to the star about gay rights.

The report had some comfort for families, after it reported that passengers and crew on the Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur flight would most likely have died swiftly after the explosion.

"It does make you feel better," she told ITV News. "You don't want any of them to suffer."

Barry Sweeney, whose 28-year-old son Liam was on board, also wanted to know that the end was instant.

"We cannot be 100%, but we have to think that was the case," he told the BBC.

He added: "I'm going to have to go away and think 'Yes, Liam died instantly as (did) 297 other people'. If you think otherwise, it's just going to hurt forever."

Investigators found no evidence of "conscious actions" by anyone on board flight MH17 after the missile struck.

However, the report added: "It cannot be ruled out that some remained conscious for some time during the one to one and a half minutes the crash lasted.

The DSB said there were lessons for the aviation industry to learn about flying over war zones. In the previous days several military aircraft had been shot down at lower altitude. Air space above 32,000ft was open to commercial flights.

Belfast Telegraph


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