by and for citizen investigative journalists

Evidence That Russian Claims About The MH17 Buk Missile Launcher Are False

July 22, 2014

By Eliot Higgins

Over the last few days, videos and photographs relating to the downing of MH17 have been poured over by people across the world, trying to piece together clues about what really happened.  One video in particular, shared by the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior, has been the focus of particular attention

This video claims to show the Buk linked to the downing of MH17 being transported to Russia, with the transporter the Buk is loaded onto matching that seen in previous photographs and videos reportedly taken on the same day.

These claims were countered by the Russians in their recent press conference about the downing of flight MH17 (see 26 minutes on)

The claim, quoted on Russia Today, was as follows

For example, media circulated a video supposedly showing a Buk system being moved from Ukraine to Russia. This is clearly a fabrication. This video was made in the town of Krasnoarmeisk, as evidenced by the billboard you see in the background, advertising a car dealership at 34 Dnepropetrovsk Street. Krasnoarmeysk has been controlled by the Ukrainian military since May 11

But is this a fabrication as the Russian government claims? It appears not, the following images were posted on the Euromaidan Twitter account, claiming to show the real location

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This position was inside the rebel controlled city of Luhansk, around 50km away from the areas the launcher was reportedly sighted in earlier in the day, and around 30km away from the Russian border.  But can we be sure this is correct?

A number of people have searched for matches between images in that area, and in the video.  For example, KoreanDefense.com highlighted a website with a collection of cameras in the area being shared on the internet.  All the cameras have now been shut down “by order of the government”, but the preview images are still visible from before they were cut off, and the camera in the above location shows this

levitskogo-chernomorskaya

Note the billboard in the middle of the picture, which appears to match the one in the video.  This also suggests the camera was point straight on to the billboard, and it appears the photograph of the area provided on the Euromaidan Twitter account is just in front of the billboard with the car advert on it visible in the above picture

BtJ-AWCCYAEWInw

It appears the Buk video was filmed on the right hand side of the road, and we can tell the transporter is heading straight on, not taking a right.  It appears the pole and path on the corner between the two road matches in both the photo and video

Verge1

 

Others believe they’ve found some of the buildings visible in the background of the video.  This image was shared by Viktor Chernov

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Who then shared the following image comparing another view of the structures to what’s visible in the video

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The buildings are visible in this position in the photograph from the camera

Buildings one

Another detail that matches are the cables suspended above the road, as these images from the video and EuromaidanPR account show

 

Video 3

 

Based on the position and height of the camera, as well as the brief flash of curtain or window frame at the start of the video, is seems the video was almost certainly filmed from these apartment buildings west of the junction

Video 4

It seems that based on studying the information available about this site the Russians lied when they claimed the billboard was located in government controlled territory.  It’s unclear if this is yet another example of the Russian government parroting internet rumours and theories as part of their official statements, but either way, it’s increasingly clear the claims are false.

Eliot Higgins is the founder of Bellingcat and the Brown Moses Blog. Eliot focuses on the weapons used in the conflict in Syria, and open source investigations tools and techniques.

22 Comments

  1. Void2002

    RL: yes, this image already was widespread everywhere around 22 July, so you’re a bit on the late side with this image, but good you discovered it yourself.

    Reply
  2. Truth Defender

    The claims made by comparison of all these pictures to the video as evidence just does not add up at all, imho.
    The pole is clearly not the same, the whole junction looks different. The main road in the pictures is way bigger than the road the truck was driving on in the video. Also the green middle line on the street is missing in the video. The houses in the background also don’t seem to be the same ones as the shapes of the roofs of both are different.
    The apartment building from which the video purportedly was shot is clearly way too far away from the road. No way the video could have been taken from that position.
    Also on the aerial photo there is no sign of that red-roofed house. The junction seems much bigger than the video suggests. So for me personally, all of this so-called investigation seems to be a big bunch of bollocks. If it were so easy to debunk the Russian claims made at the press conference then why has no renowned media outlet went to the mentioned location and caught them lying? Maybe because they were telling the truth after all?
    Also, it makes no sense to bring a BUK to near Donezk, and then drive all the way north to Luhansk instead of east toward Russia. Why this detour if it had to be moved back quickly in order to evacuate the evidence? Also, most importantly, for a BUK to be operative it needs a satellite vehicle and a command post. So only one truck moving is no evidence at all.
    And by the way, at least the Russians had a detailed press conference. The US State Department press-conferences by Kerry and Psaki & Co, were laughable at best.

    Reply

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