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Russian State Television Shares Fake Images of MH17 Being Attacked

November 14, 2014

By Veli-Pekka Kivimäki

On Friday November 14th, Russian state television ran a story of supposed foreign satellite images showing the last moments of flight MH17, with a fighter jet appearing to fire at the plane. Suspicions arose immediately on Twitter, and inconsistencies were pointed out, quickly leading to the conclusion the image is a crude fabrication.

To start, the image has been posted on a Russian message board on October 15th, claiming to originate from WikiLeaks. This contradicts the origin of these images as being “George Bilt”, whose e-mail dated November 9th was reported as the source of these images.


Overlaying the image with known data points about the MH17 flight path and debris gives the following results, showing the aircraft in the picture off the reported course.


It is clear that the satellite map imagery is created from a composite of different satellite map imagery. Part of imagery is from historical Google Earth imagery, dated 28/08/2012 (co-ords  47°57’12.22″N, 37°50’4.09″E)


Other imagery is from Yandex maps

side by side yandax

Next, it was pointed out the jet shown in the picture is definitely not an Su-25 ‘Frogfoot’ ground attack aircraft, as previously claimed by Russian media to have been involved in the downing of MH17. The profile of the aircraft is more reminiscent of fighter jets like the Su-27.

Looking at the plane that is supposedly flight MH17, the appearance of the aircraft does not match the real 9M-MRD: the Malaysian airlines logo is in the wrong place, with the Malaysia Airlines logo beginning above the wing in reference images for MH17, while the satellite map imagery shows the logo beginning just in front of the wing.

It was then suggested that the livery might actually be the standard Boeing livery, which matches quite well.

Finally, the source of the image was found by a simple image search for “боинг вид сверху”, or “boeing top view” in English.


Another side-by-side comparison by the Bellingcat team:


There are additional details that can be looked at in the image, like the scale of the aircraft in relation to each other, as well as the their scale compared to the rest of the image. It has additionally been pointed out that planes in the satellite map imagery published in the Russia media appear surprisingly clear, compared to reference imagery looked at by the Bellingcat team.

In conclusion, there are several issues with the image, as pointed out above. Thus, the material reported by 1TV cannot be deemed credible to support the theory that MH17 was shot downed by another aircraft.

Veli-Pekka Kivimäki

Veli-Pekka is a doctoral student at Finnish National Defence University, researching social media and open source intelligence. He has a long background in the technology industry, more recently focusing on defense research.

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  1. Bob

    Congratulations you have exposed the image as a photoshop fake. Something that appeared on a Russian language forum, possibly by some bored overly patriotic Russian kid, which was then seized upon (by the admittedly one sided Russian press, don’t worry). But given this appeared in October why has it taken you so long to publish your article? Slow news day? Also how does this this necessarily make Russia any more culpable in the whole tragedy? The logic seems to be thus. Bored Russian makes fake photo, jumped on by Russian news, debunked as fake but since published in Russian news must be proof Russia is hiding something/lying/planning the downfall of the good liberal west, suits the agenda of western agencies. Oh and before I’m decried as a Kremlin agent or something clever, I know a thing or two about Russia, given I did Russian studies at uni, speak the language, lived out there for a number of years and then married a Russian. I alos travel back there at least once a year. I’m quite aware of what the Russian government is like, as are most Russians. What bugs me is the total hypocrisy of the western powers especially the USA and the UK. They have absolutely no comprehension of Russian psychology or of history and if they did and tried to get their heads around it, maybe just maybe they could see why they are (at least the leadership) are just a touch paranoid. But instead they measure everything by their own neo-liberal metrics and anything counter to that is put down.

    • greencup

      I know virtually nothing about Russia, have never been there, never studied it and didn’t marry a Russian. But I agree with Bob. In the West we follow our hysterical media and make no attempt to find and follow the truth.

      We follow the media’s stories about the doings of ‘leaders’ and we ignore the truth of the people. Within our countries, domestically, and externally, internationally.

      In a split second the media will make us aware that ‘relations with Russia..’ (or China or any place) ‘… have become very strained..’ or some such. Even to the extent of mooting we’re on the brink of war.

      While the people at home and the people in Russia (or wherever) are blissfully ignorant of any tension whatever, feel no animosity, want no wars…

      We are in constant communication with ghosts, we wrestle with phantoms and fictions.
      The ghost of Cold War Russia, the ghost of WWII Russian troops, the fictions, the phantoms that media and governments conjure up for us to serve their own ends.

      I am firmly convinced that the vast mass of Russian people – 99.9% – are good people struggling to live and be happy and with no interest in global conflict with the west, just as I’m convinced that 99.9% of westerners are good people struggling to live and be happy and with no interest in suffering and dying in global conflicts fomented by insane politicians and rabid media.

      And I know I may be wrong. History shows us millions walk off to war to die in agony with every appearance of willingness. I can’t explain this. I don’t know why it is. But somehow I don’t believe it changes that fundamental truth I believe in. I think perhaps it is just evidence of how true that truth is: that people are innately so peaceful and docile that they even wander off like sheep to the slaughter.

      Give us a rest, war mongers, politicians and media hypers, stop talking about and only about what governments and media say and start talking about what the mass of people are doing, saying, wanting, needing.

      And if when you do that it gets revealed that the mass of people all over the world are really rabid monsters willing to kill and fight to the death at any time then reveal it, let is be said, let it be seen, and I’ll bow to the truth and just disappear off into the wilderness.

  2. Ville Partanen

    The fake Russian imagery of fighter firing missile: missile exhaust trail is inconsistent with physics. The exhaust gasses should be more condensed/expanded near the firing aircraft because the missile is rapidly accelerating and the trail should reach behind the firing aircraft as seen here:
    and here:

    In addition: In air combat (if not head-on) the firing aircraft’s pilot seeks optimal launch position to fire at the target and that means maneuvering whether or not the target is maneuvering. As one can see from the video above the exhaust trail from the solid fuel rocket motor of a missile fired from a maneuvering aircraft does not produce a trail that forms a straight line in front the aircraft’s launch rail as if drawn with a ruler.
    Moreover: An air-to-air missile starts turning towards the calculated impact point immediately after clearing from the weapon pylon’s ejector rack and motor ignition. The calculated impact point is well in front of a straight-and-level flying target aircraft’s nose.

  3. D.

    I contacted mr. George A Bilt and confronted him with this story and here is his answer:

    “I think owe you an explanation or possibly a disclaimer if you will.
    Here comes my side of the story. First, explaining my motivation.
    The war in Eastern Ukraine is a huge tragedy but as many people I was totally shocked by MH17 crash. I do believe.that this is our Christian and civic duty to fully pursue and embrace the truth – for those 300 innocent victims – but ultimately for our own moral and civilizational survival. Because this is a very bad world indeed where they murder 300 innocent people in a broad daylight and go unpunished. This is not about Ukraine or Russia, or the rebels. This goes beyond and above of any petty geopolitical or political games or even (!) wars. This is the ultimate choice between the good and the evil. This is about our own self-preservation from the moral and possibly physical Armageddon. Truth is the only way of our survival.
    Second, trying to understand what happened with MH17 and trying to help.

    Since July 17 I have been collecting various MH17 related and investigation pertinent materials, links and information (in various languages). I passed it first of all to the Dutch Safety Board, including this specific satellite (?) photo which unexpectedly hit the news yesterday and its source reference (the original forum message and link dated October 15, 2014). Recently I also came across the MH17 crash analysis prepared by RUE (Russian Union of Engineers / Mr. Andrievsky), conveniently posted both in German and English. Their analysis seemed to me as one of the more systematic and quality attempts available by now to investigate this crash. I also believe that MH17 was more probably shot down by a jet fighter than any anti aircraft missile system.

    I am not taking any sides in this conflict. I have no idea why and who did it. Suffice it to say that any war is a source of immense chaos and confusion. Quite often people do lose control and minds at war. Any men with arms and sense of power could present risks, violence and danger. This is not ethnic – this is human. Anything could have happened. There is no way to know.

    Third, reaching out to RUE / Mr. Andrievsky. Having read their analysis, I contacted RUE / Mr. Andrievsky via email. Giving my version of the possible or probable jet fighter attack and sending them the (possible) satellite photo in question (again found via social networks however reliable) as a potential hint or tips for their further investigation, if any with the following source reference (sent to them via a followup email / see below verbatim):


    The source of the below attached satellite photo is

    As per messages 14 through 17. It says in essence there (in Russian) that this photo was received from the Russian Wikileaks / specific source not indicated and as per the UTC time format it could have been made by some American (read Western, commercial, non Russian etc) or intelligence satellite. It was definitely not made by any Russian satellite. Possibly more information could be obtained from the person who posted this file on the forum.


    I had no knowledge or means of proving and researching if this was an authentic satellite photo or not (it was clearly available online since mid October – not really such a new discovery too). RUE seemed to possess such research means and resources. I do not know if this was my mistake in evaluation.

    Fourth, an unexpected outcome.
    What I definitely completely did not expect to see is both this email (sent in implicit confidence) and (unconfirmed!) satellite photo from social networks suddenly popping up in mass media. Without the above properly provided source reference, without my permission and with a statement that this photo was basically done or found by me. Even though This is either a clear misrepresentation and / or cultural misunderstanding. I never knew and never stated if this was an authentic or unique photo.

    I again believe based on the available information that MH17 was more probably shot down by a jet fighter. Do I know it? No. Could I be wrong? Yes (now more than ever!). Am I an investigation professional (quite unique skills)? Again no. As a minimum this is an option which needs to be fully exhausted and studied.
    Indeed, it appears that the MH17 investigation is going slow, tight and hard due to
    many reasons. The official details are quite scanty so far too. This is frustrating for many more people. That is why I sincerely tried to do something about it, to possibly help moving it.

    Hoping to come closer to finding out the truth about this horrible tragedy.
    I am quite unhappy that my bona fide informal attempt possibly became a source of yet another battle in a media war. Possibly via a misunderstanding. This was definitely not my intention. I am also not looking for a cheap fame. This tragedy is simply too awful to gain from it.

    I am sorry for all those people I might have indirectly and unintentionally misled or disappointed by this unexpected mess in anyway. My takeaway lesson – this is more complex and confusing than it seems. This is important to be discreet, humble and patient. Let us all calm down. I do believe that the Dutch Safety Board will find the truth as 200 of their compatriots were killed in this tragedy.
    Personally and professionally, I will not continue with this amateurish investigation effort due to the rather insane highly confrontational situation prone to escalation and with the elements of media war.

    You are welcome to publish this.

    Best Regards,”

  4. Donetsk citizen

    I am from Donetsk. A few days before (7-9 days) MH17 was attacked I spoke with a friend, which supports DNR (90% of my friends and acquaintances does not support DNR bandits and russian occupiers. But we are hostages in our city).
    This friend said to me, what “[skipped] in a few days we will have … “tubes” from Russia and “Ukrops” runs out of planes…”.
    Typical DNR – “monkey with a grenade”.
    Damn you DNR- bandits and murderers, burn in hell their russian hosts and helpers.
    Without Russia, there would be nothing. ALL weapons are from Russia, ALL.

    • ergo

      “Without Russia, there would be nothing. ALL weapons are from Russia, ALL.”
      …..Not true. NATO and USA have been supplying weapons to Kiev since the beginning. Also – did you forget the NATO/US led coup in February?!?! – methinks you might be:
      1. A paid troll – enjoy your 50c for trolling
      2. Highly partisan and hence not a reliable as a witness
      3. All of the above

      Shame,,, propaganda hurts hey?

  5. Aleksey

    I’m from Russia .You have so many versions of the origin of what was shot down by Boeing. Only the truth will remain unknown for the reason that prior to this investigation, there is no one works except Russia and the Netherlands and what they tighten .

  6. James H Trusty

    A Jet fighter of the Ukrainian armed forces shot down MH 17. The damage done to the doomed jet liner is consistent with the use of a machine gun and air-to-air missile–not a BUK ground-to-air missile…..

    • ПТНПНХ

      A BUK of the Russian armed forces shot down MH 17. The damage done to the doomed jet liner is consistent with the use of a BUK ground-to-air missile–not a machine gun and air-to-air missile…..

  7. Paulino

    Where is article about fake photos of russian battle vehicles used in western media?


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