Probe Says MH17 Downed by Russian Missile: Russia Refutes Claim
May 26, 2018
Mike Corder / Associated Press & RT News & Xinhua News
The missile used to shoot down a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet over eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 aboard, belonged to a Russia-based military unit, an international team of investigators said Thursday. Moscow has rejected any involvement in the crash of flight MH17 after the Netherlands and Australia declared Russia "responsible" for the deployment of a BUK missile system that downed the jet in 2014. Russia was not allowed to take part in the investigation of the controversial crash.
Probe: Missile that Downed
MH17 Came from Russia-based Unit
Mike Corder / Associated Press
BUNNIK, Netherlands (May 24, 2018) -- The missile used to shoot down a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet over eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 aboard, belonged to a Russia-based military unit, an international team of investigators said Thursday after painstakingly studying video and photos of a military convoy.
The criminal investigation team "has concluded that the Buk Telar with which Flight MH17 was shot down is from the 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade from Kursk in the Russian Federation," said Wilbert Paulissen, head of the Netherlands' National Crime Squad, referring to the missile system used.
It was the clearest link yet published by the investigators to the involvement of Russian military in the deadly surface-to-air missile strike on the Boeing 777, and it echoed findings published in 2016 by the Bellingcat investigative group.
Russia has always denied involvement in the downing of Flight 17, which was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, when it was blown out of the sky at 33,000 feet (about 10,000 meters) over war-ravaged eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014.
Bodies, debris and burning wreckage were strewn over a field of sunflowers near the rebel-held village of Hrabove in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Russian border, where fighting had been raging for months.
On Thursday, Russia criticized the Joint Investigation Team, or JIT, for relying on claims by Bellingcat.
"If the international investigative team is indeed interested in tracking down the real culprits of the MH17 catastrophe, its members would better rely on facts and witness testimony and not fakes produced by Bellingcat and Ukraine's Security Service," the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also criticized the investigators for allegedly ignoring evidence provided by Russia, including radar surveillance of the airspace at the time of the flight.
"In these circumstances, we have legitimate questions about the true underlying cause of the decision of the JIT to disclose the preliminary conclusion," the Foreign Ministry statement said.
Prosecutors said they have presented their findings to Moscow and are seeking answers, but so far have not received a response. The international team running the criminal investigation appealed for help from witnesses who can testify about the involvement of the Russian military's 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade.
Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said the new conclusion raised new questions, "such as the question about how actively involved the brigade itself was in bringing down Flight MH17."
Westerbeke said the JIT is not yet ready to identify suspects, but added: "I can say that we are now entering the . . . last phase of the investigation."
Prosecutors said in 2016 that the plane was shot down by a Buk 9M38 missile fired from territory controlled by Russia-backed rebels, using a mobile launcher trucked in from Russia and hastily returned there.
Thursday's presentation went a step further by identifying the exact unit allegedly involved in the transport. It showed a compilation of video and photos from social media tracing the missile brigade convoy's journey in the weeks before the incident.
"All findings from this forensic investigation confirm the earlier conclusion of the JIT that Flight MH17 was shot down by 9M38 series missile," said Jennifer Hurst of the Australian Federal Police.
Investigators displayed parts of the engine casing and exhaust system of a Buk 9M38 series missile recovered from eastern Ukraine and showed photos of its serial number, which they said demonstrated it was made in Moscow.
However, investigators said they could not yet say with certainty that it was the exact missile used to down MH17. They appealed for witnesses to come forward with more information about the missile and the role of the Russian military in transporting it.
In a statement, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said: "That a sophisticated weapon belonging to the Russian Army was dispatched and used to shoot down a civilian aircraft should be of grave international concern. We are discussing these findings with our partners and considering our options."
Ultimately, any suspects identified and charged will be prosecuted in Dutch courts -- if they can be arrested and brought to trial.
Of the 298 people killed, 196 were Dutch, 42 were Malaysian and 27 were Australian.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said in a Facebook post that he would "do everything possible to ensure that the actions of the Russian Federation as a state which supports terrorism get an appropriate assessment" in the International Court of Justice.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte cut short a visit to India so he could chair a Cabinet meeting to discuss the findings.
Piet Ploeg, a member of a foundation for victims' relatives, said the Dutch government should not consider legal steps against Russia.
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders urged all countries to cooperate fully with the investigation "so that those responsible can be brought to justice."
Associated Press writer Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed.
Accusations and Threats, but Where Are the Facts?
-- Russia Challenges West on Truth
(March 22, 2018) -- From the MH17 case to chemical attacks in Syria to the Skripal poisoning, the West only throws accusations against Russia without giving any proof, the Russian Foreign Ministry said, adding that such an approach "will not work."
Russia 'Absolutely' Rejects Dutch & Aussie
Accusations It's Responsible for MH17 Downing
(May 25, 2018) -- Moscow has rejected any involvement in the crash of flight MH17 in Ukraine after the Netherlands and Australia declared Russia "responsible" for the deployment of a BUK missile system that downed the jet in 2014.
Moscow neither accepts nor trusts the results of an international investigation into the MH17 crash as it was not allowed to take part in it, according to the Russian president's spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
"Of course, without being able to be a full participant, Russia does not know to what extent the results of this work can be trusted," he said.
Peskov echoed the position of the Russian president Vladimir Putin who earlier said that, although Ukraine was included in the probe, Russia was barred from participating in establishing the truth.
Asked if he can confirm that Russia vehemently denies any involvement in the MH17 downing, Peskov replied "absolutely."
Earlier on Friday, Amsterdam and Canberra said Russia is "responsible for its part in the downing of flight MH17" following a Thursday press conference of the Dutch-led International Investigation Team (JIT). The latter concluded that a BUK missile system from a Russian 53rd brigade was transported to eastern Ukraine and used to down the passenger plane with more than 300 people onboard. The system was then said to have returned to Russia.
"The [Dutch] government is now taking the next step by formally holding Russia accountable," Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok said in a statement. However, the Russian military earlier said that not a single weapons system crossed the border.
MH17 Tragedy May Be Used to Achieve Political Goals
The country's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that Moscow would not reject closer cooperation on the MH17 probe, but only if the data it provides is included as well. He also compared the case with the Skripal scandal, in which London made groundless allegations and pinned the blame on Moscow, but failed to provide any proof.
"If our partners have decided to speculate on this case, when it comes to the most serious human tragedy, the death of hundreds of people, to achieve their political goals, I leave it on their conscience," Lavrov said.
Despite the JIT claiming that it conducted a separate probe, it did not move any further than the British investigative group Bellingcat -- some reports of which came under fire and were refuted by Russian activists. Among other flaws in the earlier Bellingcat claims was the assertion that the Ukrainian Army had no Buk systems in the conflict area. However, in a countering statement, Russian activists presented reports from the Ukrainian media itself showing Buk missiles in the area prior to the downing of the plane.
Bellingcat's online investigations have previously raised questions regarding their accuracy. After the group's founder, Eliot Higgins, published one of his reports on Syria, he was asked to discuss his findings with prominent MIT physicist Theodore Postol. However, the blogger declined the debate and insulted the scientist, triggeringan avalanche of criticism on Twitter.
The allegation that the missile belonged to the Russian military had earlier been debunked by the Buk manufacturer, Almaz-Antey. Its real-time experiment showed that the projectile which hit MH17 (Boeing 777) was from an earlier generation and is no longer in service with the Russian military. It was found that the plane was likely shot down using an old 9M38 missile, not the newer type 9M38M1 with distinct butterfly-shaped metal fragments, which were allegedly recovered by the Dutch Safety Board.
Moreover, Almaz-Antey's findings, which analyzed the angle from which the projectiles entered the cockpit of the ill-fated flight, showed that the most probable location of the launch site could be only on Kiev-controlled territory. Untampered Russian radar data provided by Moscow led to similar conclusions.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 Ukrainian forces kept around 20 Buk systems, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. The military also stressed that Moscow has not supplied any new missiles to Ukraine since then.
'Untenable Claims': Russian Activists Raise
More Questions about Bellingcat MH17 Investigation
(September 20, 2016) -- A group of Russian activists have released what they say is a fresh batch of discrepancies spotted in the MH17 investigation by their British peers, Bellingcat. Among other inaccuracies and flaws, the report cites Bellingcat's ignorance of technical details.
The Russian report is based on the investigation carried out by a team of bloggers, journalists, aviation experts and volunteers calling themselves 'Anti-Bellingcat'. It makes use of the technical expertise of the Russian arms producer Almaz-Antey. The leader of the group and author of the report is Yury Kotenok, editor-in-chief of the news website Segodnia.ru.
The biggest challenge for them is to help shed light on the absolute truth behind the tragedy. Their primary objective is to cut short the continuous spread of disinformation regarding the MH17 international investigation.
According to the authors of the Russian report, published on Tuesday, Bellingcat is "ready to design any version whatsoever meant to accuse Russia."
"That's an information war," Mikhail Malyshevsky, an adviser to the chief designer of Almaz-Antey, said in an interview with the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily.
"[Bellingcat's] version [of the tragedy] is evidence-free. They do not build a version based on facts, but trim the facts to fit their version. Just to give an example, the Dutch, at the suggestion of Bellingcat, claim that the missile flew toward the plane. This has been refuted by all our data, both mathematical and experimental," he noted on Friday.
The first discrepancy, noted by the Russian activists that Bellingcat was trying to prove that the Malaysian Boeing was shot down by a BUK missile system belonging to the Russian army.
As "proof" Bellingcat referred to a Paris Match photo in July 2014 in Ukraine allegedly showing a BUK missile system being transported near Donetsk. The British outlet compared it with a picture of a BUK on the way inside Russia in Belgorod Region, alleging they are one and the same.
However, in their report, Russian activists note a key difference between the two. The BUK pictured in Russia contains a "step" on the left side of the system.
It has been introduced only after 1984 to ease the crew's embarking to the vehicle. The picture posted by Paris Match and cited by Bellingcat does not have that feature,the activists note.
"This means only one thing -- the photographs presented different modifications of the 'BUK' systems, so, as sad as it might be for Bellingcat, there is no way it can be one and the same vehicle," the report states.
In the report, Russian activists have countered Bellingcat's claims that there have been no Ukrainian BUK missile systems in the conflict-zone in the country's East. They provided various screen shots of Ukrainian media reports, picturing BUK missile systems of the Ukrainian army in the conflict area.
One of the screenshots contains part of the program called "Hour CH" by the Ukrainian First National TV channel. The respective program is dated July 16, just a day before the MH17 crash.
"The photo shows a self-propelled fire installation "Buk" [missile system] and radar 19ZH6 (35D6). This radar station in the Ukrainian army is used as an additional means of controlling the air space and targeting systems for air defense fire units, armed with 'Buk' [missile system]", the activists' investigation finds.
Ukraine "does possess BUK missile systems of type BUK M1" and Kiev has in fact confirmed the modernization of some of it, adviser to the head designer of the Russian Almaz Antey arms producer, which also manufactures BUK systems, Mikhail Malyshevsky, told RT.
Last Wednesday, Russian media obtained a statement by Almaz-Antey, in which the company accused Western media, including Bellingcat, of trying to manipulate public opinion and confusing facts to discredit its own investigation into the issue.
Russian activists have also raised questions over Bellingcat's allegation that the location from where the plane has been shot down by BUK was under rebel control.
Bellingcat backs up its claims by showing maps of the conflict region provided by the Ukrainian military as well as services like LiveUAmap и kot-ivanov. But in fact Bellingcat itself admits that the official maps "did not reflect the full picture" of the fighting, according to Russian activists' report.
LiveUAmap has also a problem of being rather not accurate, showing some of the fighting "deep inside Russian territory," the document adds. Russian bloggers accused Bellingcat of simply "interpreting facts" to suit their theory.
"Even an approximate study of the evidences which are imposed by Bellingcat as irrefutable, allow us to make a conclusion about their untenability," the report says.
Speaking to RT, the former deputy chief of the Russian Air Defense forces, Aleksandr Tazehulalov, said the Malaysian Boeing might have been shot down unintentionally.
"Many are inclined to believe that given the severe condition of the Ukrainian army at that time, the preparation of the crews of anti-missile systems was not enough for their effective use. I cannot confirm this theory … but every crew can make a mistake, there is this notorious human factor. I do not exclude it," he said.
Ukraine has been already involved in a civilian passenger jet being brought down by a missile over its territory. On October 4, 2001 a Russian TU 154 liner was shot down by a Ukrainian S-200 missile during drills in the Black Sea, killing all 78 people onboard. Back then Kiev officially recognized the responsibility and issued an apology.
On September 28, the Dutch-led Joint Investigative committee will release its findings on the criminal part of the investigation, which is expected to name the exact responsible side for the crash. Malaysian Boeing MH17 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed over war-ravaged East Ukraine on July 17, killing all 298 people onboard.
Russia Says Missile that Downed MH17
Likely Belonged to Ukraine
MOSCOW (May 25. 2018) -- The missile that downed Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) in 2014 over Ukraine "more than probably" belonged to the Ukrainian armed forces, the Russian Defense Ministry said Friday.
The Dutch-led five-nation Joint Investigation Team (JIT) announced on Thursday that the installation of the Buk missile that shot down the MH17 came from the 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade of the Russian army in Kursk. It presented the remains of the missile at a press conference.
The Russian Defense Ministry on Friday refuted the accusation, saying that no new anti-aircraft missiles crossed the border to Ukraine since 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed.
The ministry said in a statement that its experts had analyzed video materials of the press conference and discovered that the serial number of the missile's engine clearly indicated that it was produced in 1986 in the former Soviet Union.
The warranty period of this type of anti-aircraft missiles is 15 years, and Russia has destroyed all of its Buk missiles, the statement said.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the division of its military property between the former Soviet republics of Russia and Ukraine, the latter received some 20 Buk missile system units, it said.
"Thus, the only reason for the deliberate silence of the Dutch commission about the origin of the 1986 missile engine is that it more than probably belonged to the Ukrainian armed forces," the ministry said.
The MH17, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. All 298 people on board died, including 196 Dutch citizens.
In August 2014, authorities from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Ukraine and Malaysia set up the JIT to conduct a criminal investigation into the crash.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.