Dutch investigators say Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 likely broke up mid-air over eastern Ukraine after being hit by numerous "high-energy objects."
The preliminary report released by the Dutch Safety Board comes nearly two months after the plane crashed in rebel-held territory in Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.
Western governments have accused pro-Moscow separatists of using a Russian BUK surface-to-air missile to shoot down the plane.
However, later Tuesday, pro-Russian rebels argued that they do not have the military equipment that could bring down a passenger aircraft.
Alexander Zakharchenko, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying: “I can say only one thing: We just don't have the [military] equipment which could bring down a passenger Boeing, including this Malaysian plane."
The report did not explicitly say a missile was to blame, but David Kaminski, air transport editor at Flight International, told VOA the evidence seems to continue to point in that direction.
"It has been very clear that it's not an internal system fault or anything like that. It's been very clear that whatever happened, happened externally," Kaminski said. "When they say, 'a large number of high-energy projectiles,' they're not really disguising what I think is in most people's minds, which was that this is probably a deliberate action by persons unknown."
The report said there are no indications the crash was caused by a technical malfunction, noting the Boeing 777 appeared to be airworthy before taking off.
Flight data recorder
An analysis of the jet's cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder also did not reveal anything unusual in the moments before the crash.
Kaminski said this would not be surprising if the plane had encountered a missile.
"If this was brought down by a surface-to-air-missile, which seems to be the logical conclusion even though at this stage they're not prepared to say that, then [the pilots] almost certainly wouldn't have seen it coming," Kaminski said.
"These things travel at a very high rate of knots. And if it was a head-on impact, they probably wouldn't have known anything," he said.
The plane was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Most of the people on board were Dutch citizens.
The Ukrainian government requested that the Netherlands carry out the investigation.
Ongoing fighting near the crash site has prevented investigators from completing a full analysis of the wreckage.
The report instead relied in part on photos appearing to show pieces of the plane with small holes and indentations that many said are consistent with damage from a supersonic missile.
The Dutch Safety Board cautioned that more research is needed "to determine more precisely what caused the crash and how the airplane disintegrated."
It hopes to produce a more complete report within about 10 months.
Some materials for this report came from Reuters.