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MH17 inquiry grapples with Russian radar-data format

Dutch investigators are still trying to unravel radar data sourced from Russia as part of the inquiry into the destruction of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

The Dutch national prosecutor’s office says “many uncertainties” remain in the radar images supplied by Russian authorities to the criminal probe into the loss of the Boeing 777, shot down over Ukraine in July 2014.

It states that the issues centre on differing formats in which radar data is presented.

“It cannot be determined with certainty whether the images are authentic, and what precisely they show,” the office adds.

Air traffic control centres typically use the Eurocontrol-developed format known as ‘Asterix’ to exchange radar data.

But the data from Russia has not been provided in this format, says the prosecutor’s office. While separate software can aid the image analysis, it states, this has to be translated from Russian and then tested.

The translation and familiarisation work has been time-consuming, the office says, and only after it was completed could the radar data analysis begin, and further time and support is needed to progress with this work.

Russian authorities supplied the data last year, having disclosed its existence in September 2016.

Dutch Safety Board investigators have concluded that the 777 was brought down by a Russian-built ‘Buk’ surface-to-air missile.

Last September a five-nation joint investigation team concluded the weapon was launched from rebel-held eastern Ukrainian territory. The prosecutor’s office pointed out at the time that, just because the missile is not visible on radar, this does not mean it was not fired.

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