Investigators pursuing the criminal prosecution of individuals over the destruction of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 have revealed evidence of close links between high-ranking Russian officials and the leadership of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic in Ukraine.
The investigation team believes the influence of the Russian government extended to administrative, financial and military matters – with communications taking place over secure telephones supplied by the Russian security services.
It has released several audio files of intercepted communications and is seeking additional witness information regarding the military and administrative hierarchy and who was controlling the Ukrainian territory's leaders.
"There was almost daily telephone contact between the leadership of the [Donetsk People's Republic] and their contacts in the Russian Federation. They spoke with leaders in Moscow, near the border with Ukraine and in Crimea," says the MH17 inquiry team.
"The indications for close ties between leaders of the [republic] and Russian government officials raise questions about their possible involvement in the deployment of the [missile launcher] which brought down flight MH17."
Telephone numbers used in the communications "appear to be provided" by the Russian security service FSB, says the inquiry, which wants to know by whom these numbers were used.
Four suspects have already been identified by the investigation, and they will be prosecuted for their alleged involved in the shooting-down of the Boeing 777-200ER in July 2014. The first court session is set to take place on 9 March next year.