Did This Ukrainian Soldier Prove Ukraine Shot Down MH17?

In the debate over who was responsible for the shooting down of flight MH17 in Ukraine on July 17th two different weapon systems have been linked to the attack. On one hand we have various claims about a Ukrainian jet shooting down MH17 (generally described as an SU-25); with the other theory being based around the use of a Buk surface to air missile launcher. In the Bellingcat investigation Origin of the Separatists’ Buk the Bellingcat MH17 investigation team matched a Buk filmed and photographed travelling through separatist territory on July 17th to one filmed in a convoy travelling through Russia towards the Ukrainian border in late June.

However, a recent video has been used to claim the Buk that downed MH17 was actually Ukrainian.

The video is an interview with a man claiming to be a Buk missile operator who claims to have operated a Ukrainian Buk numbered 312. Buk 312 initially came to prominence when the SBU released a press release on July 19th claiming a Buk missile launcher had shot down MH17. One of the images included in the press release showed a Buk numbered 312.

SBU Buk 312

Various sites and individuals (including Bellingcat) discovered the image was from March 2014, showing an Ukrainian Buk, with other images of the same vehicle shared on Facebook at the time. After this the SBU press release was modified to remove the image of Buk 312. The current version of the press release can be found here, with the original version archived here. It’s unclear why the SBU used this image, it could have just been a reference image showing a Buk, or they could have been attempting to claim the specific Buk shown was the Buk used on July 17th, and they’ve never made a statement clarifying the situation.

This led some to claim that the Buk filmed and photographed on July 17th must have been the Ukrainian Buk 312, with other images of Ukrainian Buks numbered 312 discovered by various people and used to support those claims.

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However, the only link between the Ukrainian Buk 312 and the July 17th Buk was that one image on the original SBU press release. Regardless of the claims made in the new video of the soldier talking about Buk 312 the Bellingcat investigation established there was no link between the Buk filmed on July 17th and Buk 312. As part of the Bellingcat investigation we compared markings and damage to the rubber side skirts of Buks in Ukraine and Russia to the Buk filmed and photographed on July 17th. This included Buk 312 shown in the SBU photograph.

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In the above image it’s clear the markings and damage to the rubber skirt of Ukrainian Buk 312 do not match the one seen on July 17th and filmed in Russia in late June. As the only link between Buk 312 and the downing of MH17 is the one image posted by the SBU it seems there needs to be far more compelling evidence of it being used to shoot down MH17 before that theory can be taken seriously.