AMSTERDAM (Aug 27): The final report into the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine last year will be published on Oct 13, the Dutch Safety Board said on Thursday.
The report is keenly awaited by governments and relatives of victims because it could shed light on who was responsible for the crash last July, in which 298 people travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were killed.
In a preliminary report last year, the Board blamed the crash on "high energy objects" striking the aircraft. Western governments have said they believe it was downed by a ground-to-air missile fired in error by Moscow-backed separatists.
Russia contests that claim, and has variously attributed the crash to an unidentified Ukrainian fighter aircraft and a Ukrainian-launched anti-aircraft missile. The Netherlands has avoided committing itself to any theory.
Air safety investigations focus on the technical circumstances of crashes and do not attribute criminal blame, but information about the exact nature of the disaster could in this case suggest who was responsible for firing a missile.
Two thirds of the victims were Dutch, and the country is leading the judicial and air safety investigations into the crash, which contributed to bringing relations between Russia and the West to their lowest ebb since the Cold War.
Russia last month vetoed an attempt by the Netherlands, Malaysia and other countries affected by the crash to establish an international tribunal to find and try those responsible for the Boeing 777's downing.
A United Nations-backed tribunal was the countries' preferred option since they believed it would command the legitimacy needed to demand the extradition of alleged perpetrators from any country that was harbouring them.
The Netherlands has since said affected countries are pursuing alternative routes to prosecution.
Relatives of victims would be briefed on the report's conclusions before it was released, the Board said.