Investigators may name more suspects in downing of Flight MH17

FILE PHOTO: Local workers transport a piece of wreckage from Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 at the site of the plane crash near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo) in Donetsk region

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - International investigators probing the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) over eastern Ukraine are set to present new findings on Wednesday, including possibly naming additional suspects.

In November a Dutch court convicted two former Russian intelligence agents and a Ukrainian separatist leader of murder for helping arrange the Russian missile system that was used to shoot the plane down, killing 298 passengers and crew. The three men, who were tried in absentia, remain at large.

Investigators have continued assembling evidence about the plane's destruction, and could identify either the crew that manned the missile system, or higher-up Russian military or political officials who approved its transfer in and out of Ukraine.

It would be up to a separate prosecution team to attempt to press charges.

Russia has denied any responsibility for MH17's destruction.

MH17 was shot down as it flew over eastern Ukraine from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014, killing all aboard, including 196 Dutch citizens.

In the wake of the plane's destruction, the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Ukraine and Malaysia set up a joint investigation team to assemble evidence for criminal prosecutions.

The team has scheduled a press conference for 1 p.m. local time (1200 GMT). Victims' families are due to be informed about the findings immediately before the news conference.

At the time the plane was shot down, Ukrainian forces were fighting with pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine' Donetsk province.

While Russia had annexed Crimea in March 2014, it denied military involvement in fighting in Donetsk at that time.

But as part of the conviction of the three men in November, the Dutch court ruled that Russia had in fact had "overall control" of separatist forces in Donetsk starting from May 2014.

Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 in what it terms a "special military operation" and in September said it had annexed Donetsk.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg and Toby Sterling; editing by Jonathan Oatis)