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Missile that downed flight MH17 was fired from rebel-held territory

Part of the reconstructed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 plane is seen prior to the presentation of the Dutch Safety Board's final report into what caused Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 to break up high over Eastern Ukraine last year, killing all 298 people on board. Pictures: Peter Dejong/AP

THE Dutch Safety Board (DSB)has identified the area from which, it said, the missile that downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was launched.

Though it declined to comment further on the exact launch site, all the territory within the 320 square kilometre area it identified was in rebel hands at the time of the July 2014 crash.

Russia has contended that if the plane was brought down by a missile, it must have been launched by Ukrainian government forces.

The Dutch Safety Board report said the Buk's impact was instantly fatal only to the three crew members in the cockpit of the plane.

The rest of the crew and the passengers died due to decompression, reduced oxygen levels, extreme cold, powerful airflow and flying objects, the report said.

But it added: "It cannot be ruled out that some occupants remained conscious during the 60 to 90 seconds before the plane crashed."

The board said it is likely that people "were barely able to comprehend the situation in which they found themselves...no indications were found that point to any conscious actions," such as text messages sent on mobile phones.

One passenger was found wearing an oxygen mask, but it was "unclear how the mask got there", the board said.

Meanwhile, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has called on Russia to fully cooperate with the criminal investigation into the downing of flight MH17.

Commenting for the first time on the Dutch Safety Board's final report, Mr Rutte said that a key priority "is now tracking down and prosecuting the perpetrators".

He says that the Dutch Safety Board report "is a new element and undoubtedly an important building block" in the international criminal investigation that is being led by Dutch prosecutors and detectives.

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

While some may have retained consciousness briefly after impact, the confusion and shock after the deafening explosion would have been so profound, it stated.

People did not use mobile phones to write text messages or take pictures in the aftermath, unlike in other disasters, they found.

Three pilots in the cockpit were killed instantly by the missile blast.

Other crew and passengers elsewhere were affected differently as the plane broke up.

Exposure would have led to swift unconsciousness.

"No indications were found that point to conscious actions," the DSB report said.

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