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Images Show the Buk that Downed Flight MH17, Inside Russia, Controlled by Russian Troops

September 8, 2014

By Magnitsky

New evidence has been found that shows the Buk missile system that was used to shoot down MH17 on the 17th of July came from Russia, and was most likely operated by Russian soldiers. Using videos posted by locals in Russia’s Belgorod region back in June it has been possible to identify the Buk missile launcher seen in Ukraine on July 17th as part of a convoy of Buk missile launchers. It has also been possible to identify the Russian brigade the Buk is likely to have belonged to, and who may have operated the Buk missile launcher when it was in Ukraine.

The Buk launcher can be identified because of a number of features, including white markings on the left side side of its chassis, and what looks like the traces of a number that has been painted over. Here is a comparison of the Buk seen in previously unpublicised video taken in Russia on the 23rd of June with a well known image from Paris Match, which shows a Buk in Donetsk at 9am on July the 17th.

On the left: the Buk in a column of Russian military vehicles seen on the evening on the 23rd of June on the motorway from Staryy Oskol to the OEMK steel works in the Belgorod area.  Source. On the Right: Image from Paris Match. Source

On the left: the Buk in a column of Russian military vehicles seen on the evening on the 23rd of June on the motorway from Staryy Oskol to the OEMK steel works in the Belgorod area. [Source]  On the Right: Image from Paris Match. [Source]

The above picture with the contrast boosted showing a third matching marking.

The above picture with the contrast boosted showing a third matching marking.

Numerous earlier studies of vehicles inside Ukraine has shown it has been standard practice for Russian forces to paint over the numbers on their vehicles before sending them into the Ukraine. In the Paris Match image, much of the remaining number has now been painted over. However, it is still possible to see the top curve of what was a “2” and the other two white marks. It’s important to note that these markings are in exactly the same positions on the Buk in both images.

Here is a comparison of the Paris Match picture with an image of the same Buk in a convoy of Russian military vehicles in Alexeyevka, a town around 70 miles from Staryy Oskol, on the 24th of June.

Left: Same Paris Match image as above. On the right: image from a video taken near the Magnit store in Alexeyevka on the 24th of June. [Source]

Left: Same Paris Match image as above. On the right: image from a video taken near the Magnit store in Alexeyevka, Russia on the 24th of June. [Source]

The above image also shows the matching marks on the left side of the Buk. It’s also possible to confirm that this is the same Buk by looking at the other side of the vehicle. The Buk seen moving back to the Russian border on the 17th has a white patch on the armoured skirt of its right side. This patch is also visible in a video filmed around Staryy Oskol in Russia, which was uploaded on the 23rd of June.

On the left: an image from a video widely spread in the wake of the MH17 tragedy. [Source]. On the right: another unpublicised video from around Staryy Oskol uploaded on the 23rd of June. [Source].

On the left: an image from a video widely spread in the wake of the MH17 tragedy. [Source] On the right: another unpublicised video from around Staryy Oskol uploaded on the 23rd of June. [Source]

The videos of the convoy of Russian vehicles in June shows a number of Buks are part of the convoy.  However, keeping track of the one with with the markings that match those seen in Ukraine in July is simple, as only three Buks in the column do not have railings on the back of their turrets.

Here is an image to illustrate what these railing look like, and what the Buk looks like without them; the top image is one of the systems seen in the Alexeyevka video, on the bottom is an image of the Buk that is suspected of being used to shoot down MH17, filmed in Staryy Oskol.

The top image is an example of a Buk with railings. [Source] Bottom image: the Buk with the markings outside of Staryy Oskol. [Source]

The top image is an example of a Buk with railings. [Source] Bottom image: the Buk with the markings outside of Staryy Oskol. [Source]

Out of the Buk launchers in the column filmed in Russia in late June, three are without railings on back of the turret. Two out of these three have identification numbers on the side; number 231 and 232. Buk number 231 can be ruled out as the Buk in the July videos and photos has completely different markings on its right side and does not have a patch of white on its right skirt.

5

Buk 231 with a diamond shaped marking and no white patch. [Source]

The below images show that the Buk that was filmed in Luhansk after the attack does not have the railings on the back of its turret.

Top: Buk without railings filmed in outside Staryy Oskol. [Source] Bottom: Same Buk in Luhansk after the attack. [Source]

Top: Buk without railings filmed outside Staryy Oskol. [Source] Bottom: Same Buk in Luhansk after the attack. [Source]

The Buk that had been seen in the Staryy Oskol area in June has marks on both sides that match those seen on the Buk before and after the attack on July 17th. Just like the Buk linked to the attack on MH17, it does not have railings on the back of its turret, and the back section of its turret is also a dark colour that matches what we can see in the photograph in Torez. The vehicle is also distinctive, for instance, it is the only one to have that distinct set of markings out of the entire column of vehicles that was seen in late June.

Furthermore, the fact that it was heading towards the Ukranian border in the weeks prior to the attack on the airliner means that it is possible to conclude that the Buk seen in Russia was the Buk that was smuggled into Ukraine and used to shoot down MH17.

It’s also possible to determine which Russian unit the Buk is likely to belong to by examining the vehicles in the column.  The videos of the convoy travelling to Ukraine show that the vehicles have area code “50” on their registration plates, which indicates that they belong to the Moscovskiy Voenniy Okrug (MVO) or the Moscow Military District.

The area code “50” is visible on the registration plates of the vehicles in a video taken in the Krasneyskiy area on the morning of the 24th of June.

Truck in the convoy heading to Alexeyevka on the 24th of June (note: the timestamp on the video is wrong). [Source]

Truck in the convoy heading to Alexeyevka on the 24th of June (note: the timestamp on the video is wrong). [Source]

The dashcam recording appears to have a time/date stamp error and reads “2011.01.01”. This is clearly wrong for numerous reasons, including the summer weather in the video is radically different from the Staryy Oskol area in wintertime and the exact same vehicles are visible in multiple videos; see the white minibus here, here and here at 0:54.

A resident of Staryy Oskol also confirmed that the registration numbers on the vehicles in the convoy had the “50”  code. The user rokerrson posted on instagram on the 23rd of June:

This evening, a column of military hardware passed through our city, which included, mobile RLS [radar], ZRK [air defense missile system] Buk (if correctly identified), a bunch of tented Urals and other vehicles, generally around 80-100 units in total, including a field kitchen and refueling trucks. Presumably, these are troops of the CVO [Central Military District] on exercises and they moved in the direction of the Ukrainian border with the Belgorod region.

Later, the poster added the following: “correction with the CVO… vehicles with Moscow numbers (50 rus)”.

The Moscow Military District has two anti-aircraft missile brigades that are specially outfitted with Buk systems. These are the 5th Zrbr “Buk”, which is based in Shuya and the 53rd Zrbr “Buk” which is based in Kursk. The 5th brigade can be ruled out because according to multiple sources it has been moved out of the Moscow Military District and into the Western Military District, and is now head-quartered in St Petersburg, where it uses the “43” area code on its vehicles.

As Kursk is relatively close to Staryy Oskol it makes sense that the convoy was comprised of the 53rd brigade and departed from its base at V/Ch (Military Unit) 32406. This is also confirmed by the earliest video of the convoy, taken during in the morning or afternoon of the 23rd June,  which shows the vehicles driving away from Kursk and in the direction of Kharkiv. It is therefore likely that the Buk belongs to the 53rd brigade from Kursk.

Moreover, it also appears the 53rd “Buk” brigade not only uses the “50” area code on their registration plates, but their troops have uploaded pictures of some of the same vehicles that can been seen in the videos taken around Staryy Oskol. Here are two photos of a the same truck, the first image is from the video in the Krasneyskiy area and the second was uploaded by Ivan Krasnoproshin who serves in the 53rd brigade.

On the left: a truck in the convoy to Alexeyevka on the 24th of June. [Source] On the right, the same truck  photographed by Sergeant Ivan Krasnoproshin of the 53rd “Buk” brigade in Kursk. The license plate reads “0639АН50”. [Source]

On the left: a truck in the convoy to Alexeyevka on the 24th of June. [Source] On the right, the same truck photographed by Sergeant Ivan Krasnoproshin of the 53rd “Buk” brigade in Kursk. The license plate reads “0639АН50”. [Source]

Here are pictures of a Buk Snow Drift Radar unit. The first was uploaded by Kranoproshin in 2013 and the second is from the video of the convoy in Alexeyevka.

The third vehicle from the left is a Snow Drift Radar that can be used as part of the Buk system. The number on the side reads “201”. [Source]

The third vehicle from the left is a Snow Drift Radar that can be used as part of the Buk system. The number on the side reads “201”. [Source]

A Snow Drift Radar with identification number “201” in Alexeyevka on the 24th of July. [Source]

A Snow Drift Radar with identification number “201” in Alexeyevka on the 24th of July. [Source]

Krasnoproshin inside one of the unit's vehicles. The chevrons indicate that he is a sergeant. [Source]

Krasnoproshin inside one of the unit’s vehicles. The chevrons indicate that he is a sergeant. [Source]

The following picture shows Krasnoproshin at the headquarters of military unit 32406, note the missiles in background which are displayed for show on the parade ground.

Ivan Krosnoproshin at the parade ground of the 53rd brigade on the 22nd of July 2012 [Source]

Ivan Krosnoproshin at the parade ground of the 53rd brigade on the 22nd of July 2012 [Source]

The following image shows the parade ground of the 53rd brigade from above, the same missiles are visible on the south side of the parade ground.

The missiles in the image above confirm Krasnoproshin's location in the earlier photo. [Source]

The missiles in the image above confirm Krasnoproshin’s location in the earlier photo. [Source]

The following is a satellite view of the 53rd brigade’s vehicle park:

Vehicle park map

This image suggests that the large number of vehicles seen in the column in June probably came from the 53rd brigade. The brigade itself is part of the Russian Protivo Vozdushnaya Oborona (PVO), or Anti-Aircraft Defense troops. As a unit specially supplied and trained to use the Buk, the 53rd brigade had both the ability and the means to shoot down  MH17 on July the 17th.

The Buk that was seen leaving the suspected area of the missile launch on the 17th of July most likely belonged to and was manned by Russian troops from the 53rd Kursk Brigade. The new information presented in this article adds to the existing evidence that the Russian government bears responsibility for the tragedy.

 

Magnitsky

Iggy Ostanin is a freelance Russian journalist who does investigative research on the Ukrainian conflict. He tweets under @magnitsky and can be contacted at iggy.ostanin@gmail.com

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197 Comments

  1. Jeroen

    If wounded Russian soldiers are afraid of telling what exactly happend, and where, even when “by accident, they sometimes lost their way”, if soldiers wifes, mothers and family are threathened not to speak about their lost beloved men, like in Pskov and other places, how long will it take for the men of 53rd brigada to come out with their story?

    The onces who pulled the trigger must get clean with their conscience some day……… A lie may be quick, but truth will overtake in the long run.

    Let us strongly keep believing in humanity

    Reply
  2. Anastasia

    I suggest everyone to think about qui prodest in this whole MH17 story. Sanctions against Russia were formulated in advance. And hit Russia immediately after MH17 loss.

    Ukraine Maidan scenario was written by same authors who wrote it for Egypt, Maroc, Lybia, Syria etc. Outcome of West agression (for some reason called ‘the protection of democracy’) into these countries led to a long time instability, division of each nation into two different camps, mass killings, starving, breaking families, grief and uncertainty.

    One must be blind not to see this process. And how do you find these countries living afterwards? How do you find now Iraq, Lybia, Afganistan, Syria? Did these people say thanks to the West who arranged these turmoils in their home countries? What about US bombing Jugoslavia back in 2006?

    Or am I mistaken and it was Russia who arranged all that international mess, sending its troops all around the world? I will not be surprised to receive ‘yes’ answers to my question. All those who advise Russians to overthrow bloody Putins regime, should more carefully analyse what is going on in their own countries. And respond to themselves, do they support their countries policies on sending troops and killings in Iraq, Afganistan, supporting Syrian rebels, bombing Belgrad, arranging and supporting turmoils in other countries. And if you agree with your countries actions, then yes, go and search evidence on Buk being covardly sent to Ukraine at night, taking proofs from social networks. Because only absolutly dumb people may seriously count pictures on internet as evidence of MH17 hit by Russian army. Wait for reports of experts, specialists, unbiased inernational investigation. If it still exist, the unbiased one. If you still want to discover the truth.

    Reply
  3. Jeroen

    Steve Rosenberg BBC proofs his courage to try supporting Russian families, like a sister of a soldier, who care about their lost or missing army sentries, and want to know what happend to their beloved ones.

    Reply
  4. Jeroen

    Some additional information about Buk ZR brigada composition

    A ZR brigada normally consists of three (ZR) battalions.
    each battalion consists of a hq coy and three launcher batteries.
    A launcher battery has six 9A310 TELAR and three 9A39 reloader/TEL

    Reply
  5. Jeroen

    PM Rutte New York 25 september

    All remains and belongings need to be repatriated.

    The cause of the disaster must be brought to light.

    Those responsible must be brought to justice.

    Reply
    • Rob

      Lana,

      That report from The Russian Union of Engineers (from the 15th of August) relies almost exclusively on the “evidence ” presented during the press conference by the Russian Defense Ministry on July 21.

      I spotted 5 misleading statements and 6 outright false statements in the report.

      Could you point out some of them for us, or do we need to do your homework for you ?

      Reply
      • Rob

        Not to mention that this report by the Russian Union of Engineers does not give a SINGLE source reference.

        It mentions “according to the data of the Russian
        Federation Ministry of Defense)”, and “This information was published by the Russian Ministry of Defense. “, and “the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense stated..” and “according to the data of the Ministry of Defense, …” and “The Russian Federation Ministry of Defense stated that …”

        without giving a SINGLE reference to ANY of these statements.

        Reply
  6. David L

    The BUK on the Staryy Oskol video clearly has three white patches on the side, not one like on the other videos. Due to the low quality of the video they’re not visible on that very screenshot you chose, but it’s very visible when watching the video. Coincidental or not I suggest you remove that one as “evidence”.

    Reply
    • Rob

      “The BUK on the Staryy Oskol video clearly has three white patches on the side, not one like on the other videos. ”

      Could you explain what you mean ?
      Bellingcat quite clearly shows that the three white patches on left side of the BUK in Staryy Oskol match the three white patches on the BUK photographed in Donetsk.

      Also, they are very visible on that screenshot that Bellingcat choose.

      What is your point again, exactly ?

      Reply
  7. SGS

    Is this a joke or story for idiots? The first one picture has two BUKS with completly different markings, why they are encircled pretending they are the same? They are not. Try harder ukie bot. Didnt even read the rest of the BS.

    Reply
    • bellingcatadmin

      Probably would have helped if you read the whole piece before posting this comment.

      Reply
  8. Бундестаг

    Но ведь самолет-разведчик АВАКС перед крушением боинга зарегистрировал запуск ракеты ЗРК Печора, а не Бука! По крайней мере такой отчет предоставил Бундестаг на основе данных самолета-разведчика.
    http://www.bundestag.de/presse/hib/2014_09/-/329982

    Reply
    • Ivan

      “in the region routinely detected signal” it means in this area the air defense missile system (type SA-3 or C-125) worked as usual at the moment of crashing

      Reply

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