NIEUWEGEIN: Relatives of victims of the shooting-down of a Malaysia Airlines jetliner over Ukraine more than two years ago were gathering Wednesday to learn the preliminary results of a Dutch-led criminal probe of the disaster that claimed 298 lives.
The team that is conducting the largest investigation in Dutch history is scheduled to brief victims' families behind closed doors Wednesday morning. Investigators will hold a news conference later in the day to make their findings public.
Thomas Schansman, father of the only U.S. citizen killed in the July 2014 disaster, said he expects investigators to identify which specific weapon they believe destroyed flight MH17, and where it was fired from. He said family members do not expect investigators at this stage to name the people they believe were responsible.
A separate investigation by Dutch safety officials last year found the Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur flight was downed by a Buk missile fired from territory held by pro-Russian rebels.
Dutch police spokesman Thomas Aling said the investigation findings to be announced Wednesday differ in that they are designed to be solid enough to be used as evidence in a criminal trial. Where and when a trial might take place is still to be determined, Aling said.
Russia has consistently denied allegations that pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine were responsible. On Monday, the Russian military said it has new radiolocation data that show the missile that downed the Boeing 777 did not originate from rebel-controlled territory, and said it would turn the data over to investigators.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated that assertion on Wednesday ahead of the Dutch report.
"If there was a rocket it could only have been launched from a different area," he told reporters, referring to Russian radar data. "You can't argue with it, it can't be discussed."
In the Joint Investigation Team, Dutch police and judicial officials have been working with counterparts from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine, seeking to gather the best possible evidence for use in prosecution of the perpetrators.
They have faced extraordinary challenges: the crime scene in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk oblast where the plane crashed on July 17, 2014, killing all aboard, was located in an active war zone, and during the days following the crash pro-Kremlin militants limited access to the site.
Eleven containers crammed with debris from the jetliner were ultimately brought to the Netherlands. A research team took soil samples in eastern Ukraine and established the location of cellphone towers and the layout of the local telephone network.
Forensic samples were taken from passengers' and crew members' bodies and luggage, and satellite data and communications intercepts were scrutinized. The team also appealed for information from witnesses who may have seen the missile launch.
About two-thirds of the passengers aboard MH17 were Dutch nationals; the crew members were Malaysians. Malaysia proposed setting up an international tribunal to try those responsible for the plane's destruction, but Russia vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution in favor of a tribunal.