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Geolocated July BUK convoy videos in Russia

November 7, 2014

By Veli-Pekka Kivimäki

In July, movements of Buk system elements were again on the move in Russia. The Bellingcat team has discovered and analyzed 12 videos reportedly from between July 19-20. Some of the sightings of individual units have been previously discussed in relation to MH17, but they can now be placed in the greater context of a military convoy’s movements. In addition, there is a newly discovered video of a unit from June’s convoy moving alone through Kamensk-Shaktinsky down a road which leads to the Russian border town of Donetsk.

The first video examined has a self-reported location of “Федосе”, which can be found to refer to Федосеевка, or Fedoseevka, north of Stary Oskol. The location in the video can be found on eastbound P189, which passes through Fedoseevka.

july-01-fedoseevka
Above, screen shot from the video. Below, location on Street View.

Another video with the reported location of Stary Oskol can be linked to the same exact location, seemingly during the time the convoy was stopped by the side of the road.

july-02-fedoseevka
Left, two screen shots from the video. Right, same landmarks on Street View.

Video number three is not dashcam footage, but shot while stationary. The location provided is Stary Oskol, and based on the visible poles of the light rail power line can be narrowed down to P188 through Stary Oskol. Landmarks reveal the exact location.

july-03-staryoskol
Above, screen shot from the video. Below, location on Street View.

The fourth video of the convoy is again said to be located in Stary Oskol. In this case, the video is long enough to give several landmarks, which can be used to locate the video.

july-04-staryoskol
Above, screen shot from the video. Below, location on Street View.

With video number five, we see the reported location as Stary Oskol, but the date marked as July 30th. This is interesting, because we see an exact match in the vehicles of the convoy to all the videos marked as having been filmed on July 19th. Comparing the tarp-covered trailers, we can see an exact match to a July 19th video. It seems highly unlikely two identifical convoys with exactly the same kind of vehicles, including the tarped loads, would have moved through the city 11 days apart, especially when no other footage from July 30th has been found.

truck-comparison-left-right
Left, screen shot from the video. Right, comparisons to vehicles from July 19th videos.

As for the location of the video, it can be placed at the center of Stary Oskol, with match confirmed on Street View.

july-05-staryoskol
Above, screen shot from the video. Below, location on Street View.

The sixth video shows familiar surroundings from previous geolocation work, and the filming location can be found in Stary Oskol.

july-06-staryoskol
Above, screen shot from the video. Below, location on Street View.

Moving out of the city, the next video said to be from Stary Oskol can be located to south of the city. The immediate surroundings provide few clues, but by also looking at the view from the rear view mirror, the general area can be narrowed down, and exact the location found.

july-07-staryoskol
Above, screen shot from the video. Below, location on Street View.

The eigth video has has quite a suggestive title, talking about a “Buk driven to dismantling”. This would seem unlikely, as the vehicles are in Neznamovo, far from Luhansk, and heading south. The ninth video is related, and filmed in the same area.

july-08-neznamovo
Above, screen shot from the video. Below, location on Street View.

july-09-neznamovo
Above, screen shot from the video. Below, location on Street View.

Next, as number 10, we have a video reportedly from Alexeevka. The quality of the video is not great, but it does provide an overview of the surrounding terrain, which was useful in matches from satellite imagery. Ultimately, the search leads to the following location, giving a very likely match as the location, south of Alexeyevka, with the vehicles heading east.

july-11-alexeyevka
Above, location on Street View. Below, screen shot from the video.

The final video of this convoy, number 11, provided no reference location, and was one of the more difficult ones to locate. One tool used was SunCalc, as likely time of the video filmed was known, so the shadows of the vehicles provided a clue about road orientation. Then, the matching road shapes were searched from the likely convoy route based on the June convoys movements, giving a match to the Olkhovatka. Finally, Street View was used to confirm the match.

july-12-olkhovatka
Above, screen shot from the video. Below, location on Street View.

Summary of the convoy’s movements on a map looks as follows:

map-july1

The last video discussed here is a very interesting one, as it shows a lone Buk TEL unit with obscured markings traveling alone. The video is short and provides very few clues about the likely location. The reported location, “пос. Южный” or “pos. Yuzhnyy”, is alone ambiguous, as it is a common name for villages in Russia. The necessary context was provided by the uploaders reported location on Russian social media sites, placing him in Kamensk-Shaktinsky. With this additional information, it was possible to find a church listing its location as “пос. Южный г. Каменск-Шахтинский”, on the south side of Kamensk-Shaktinsky, and searching the surroundings there lead to the the location pictured below. The unit was traveling south on E40/M21, which leads to the Russian border town of Donetsk.

july-10-kamensk-shakhtinsky
Above, screen shot from the video. Below, location on Street View.

Location on a map:

map-july2

To wrap up, here is a summary table of all the locations.

# Location Coordinates
1 Fedoseevka 51.340488,37.7983139
2 Fedoseevka 51.3404795,37.7977605
3 Stary Oskol 51.3324537,37.8736081
4 Stary Oskol 51.3247281,37.8818285
5 Stary Oskol 51.3164918,37.8912864
6 Stary Oskol 51.3114993,37.8968766
7 Stary Oskol 51.2874736,37.9203471
8 Neznamovo 51.2491165,37.9340878
9 Neznamovo 51.242226,37.9368639
10 Alexeyevka 50.6090816,38.645594
11 Olkhovatka 50.6090816,38.645594
12 Kamensk-Shakhtinsky 48.2985814,40.2435022
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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3 Comments

  1. D.

    We can be indeed sure that this convoy was filmed mainly at 19 july, since the order of the vehicles is almost the same and considering the relative small distance it wouldn’t take longer then a day for sure. From Fedoseevka to Stary Oskol it is obvious filmed on the same day, which is mainly obvious because of one trailer with equipment (probably a Buk) covered with a sheet with 2 particular shaped holes on the side.

    The two trailers with covered equipment filmed in Neznamovo belong for sure
    to the same convoy, since one license plate is identical (XP 4682 50) and the
    other has holes in the back and side of the sheet which we obviously can see
    in the convoy as well (with license XP 4809 50). What is really weird is that
    those two trailers go off the road, go straight at a roundabout and actually
    go back to the main road again. I have no idea why they do this.

    Another strange this is that the convoy filmed in Olkhovatka on 20 july
    seems to miss one trailer with a (covered) Buk, since I count only 7 of them,
    while in Fedoseevka I can count 8 of them. Which one has gone is not clear,
    it seems they reordered the covers with holes, since the particular shape
    and location of holes isn’t there anymore.

    The license plates of vehicles are as follows (from back to front):
    8566 HC 50, 8766 HH 50, XP 4718 50, XP 8235 50, XP 4809 50,
    XP 4671 50, XP 4683 50, XP 0030 50, XP 0037 50, XP 4722 50
    XP 4720 50, XP 4681 50, XP 4682 50
    (Where it must be noted that the trailer with XP 4809 50 moves
    from almost the back completely to the front and later this one
    is seen in Neznamovo together with XP 4682 50, which in the
    convoy has 2nd place from Stary Oskol).

    Reply
    • Veli-Pekka Kivimäki

      I believe the reason why some of the vehicles go off the road on a few occasions is height. It’s usually when there’s either an overpass or a pipeline going over the road, and they take what’d be the shortest way around it.

      As for the amount of vehicles, you’re right that they don’t add up at Olkhovatka – some do seem to be missing. Would be interesting to find more material to get a better idea of the significance of the mismatch.

      Reply
  2. D.

    Here is a very useful website for checking existing pictures of military vehicles based on the license plate number: http://platesmania.com/searchb
    Many of the XP 46xx series can be found here (including XP 4682 50 from the 19-20 july convoy). You have to select ‘military trailers’ to be able to select two letters at the beginning of the license plate. Then enter the number, leave the next two select fields empty and then choose the region (50 = moscow oblast).

    Reply

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