the home of online investigations

More Evidence of Russia Supplying the Buk Linked to the Downing of MH17

September 22, 2014

By Eliot Higgins

Earlier this month, Bellingcat looked at new evidence that the Buk used to down MH17 belonged to the Russian military. The Buk photographed by Paris Match in rebel controlled Donetsk on the morning of July 17th and tracked travelling though rebel territory throughout the day by Bellingcat and others also appeared to be part of a convoy filmed in Russia in late June heading toward the Ukrainian border.  Using markings visible on the side of the Buk photographed by Paris Match and stills from the convoy in Russia it was possible to find elements that matched despite attempts to paint over some of the markings on the vehicle

The top still is from footage of the convoy in Russia, the bottom from the Paris Match photograph [Source] with the matching markings highlighted

The top still is from footage of the convoy in Russia [Source], the bottom from the Paris Match photograph [Source] with the matching markings highlighted

The same images as above showing where the Buk's markings line up. Note the bottom image has had its contrast adjusted for clarity.

The same images as above showing where the Buk’s markings line up. Note the bottom image has had its contrast adjusted for clarity.

Other elements matched, including the lack of rails present on many other Buks in the same convoy in Russia, also missing from the Buk in Ukraine

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]

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

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

As part of our investigation we examined footage of other Buk missiles launchers to find any with similar markings, and also invited Bellingcat readers to contribute to our Checkdesk investigation into the launchers by sending us any images of Buk missile launchers they might have come across. As of yet, we’ve not found any with similar markings, but one eagle-eyed reader found a detail that we had previously overlooked.

Mark Brown noted the following on Twitter

As he notes in his tweets, the side skirt of the Buk in both photographs has been damaged in exactly the same position. The damage is visible under the markings, highlighted in the below image.

Buk Dent
We can see here that the side skirt has a dent in it that matches in both images. The likelihood of two different Buks having the same markings and also the same damage seems incredibly unlikely, so this shows that the Buk photographed in Ukraine, travelling through rebel held territory on July 17th, was the same one identified inside Russia in a convoy containing vehicles from the Russian’s 53rd Zrbr “Buk” Brigade based in Kursk.

Eliot Higgins

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 investigation tools and techniques.

Join the Bellingcat Mailing List:

Enter your email address to receive a weekly digest of Bellingcat posts, links to open source research articles, and more.

Support Bellingcat

You can support the work of Bellingcat by donating through the below link:

9 Comments

  1. Mark

    The red lines are very helpful. The BUKs look similar but it isn’t possible to be sure they are exactly the same. Look at the top of the two for instance. Also the damage to the side skirt – the edge is quite straight on the Russian one, more ragged on the Paris Match one (although hard to be sure with the rain on the dash).

    Still impossible to be sure if the one seen in Donetsk / Snizhne / Lugansk is the same machine as the Russian one, or one of the same model which has had some work done on it to make it look the same.

    Reply
  2. Arioch

    Problem: German government published reports of AVACS records of MH17 downing

    It was not “BUK” column used, it was non-transportable S-125 (SA-3) ground-fixed unit.

    Reply
    • Bernd

      @Arioch
      The German government didn’t claim that it was a SA-3 which shot down the plane. It said that the AWACS detected an active SA-3, and another unidentified signal shortly before MH17 was shot down. MH17 left the range of the AWACS 10 minutes before it got shot down. So the rocket which shot down MH17 was also out of range of the AWACS.

      Reply
  3. The «smoking gun»

    What is more relevant is the fact that – independently of origin (Rus, Ukrainian, other) – there was a Buk in Donetsk at the moment of the MH17 incident. My TV program spoke to the owner of the company that transported the SA-11.

    Nuno Rogeiro

    Reply
  4. Mark

    Nuno Rogeiro – It is now known that the BUK film was made in Lugansk not in Krasnodon which goes to show you shouldn’t take the information given out by Ukrainian State Intelligence / Interior Minister at face value.

    Reply
  5. Donetsk not Luhansk...

    I really don’t understand your comment. We are talking about Donetsk, not Luhansk. We spoke with the owner of the firm that owns the Volvo truck that transported one Buk, the morning of the MH17 incident, through Donetsk.
    So the point is: there was at least one SA-11 in working condition in DNR territory, and so potential cause for the downing. Where is this TELAR platform now?

    Reply
  6. Donetsk not Luhansk...

    So to clarify: Alfred de Montesquiou (Paris Match) team photographed one SA-11 Buk in Donetsk, the morning of the 17. It was carried by a White and blue lined Volvo truck. Through analyzing the characters in the truck we arrived to the carrier. We talked to the owner – in Russian – who confirmed to us that all his vehicles were taken by DNR militants and used to transport military hardware, including the Buk system. No one is saying this is the TELAR that shot at the MH17. We are just pointing to the constant denials by DNR commanders about the presence of «Buks» in their territory.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)