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New Images of the MH17 Buk Missile Launcher in Ukraine and Russia

January 17, 2015

By Eliot Higgins

Following the Bellingcat report Origin of the Separatists’ Buk, which showed that the Buk missile launcher linked to the downing of MH17 was filmed inside Russia a few weeks earlier, the Bellingcat investigation team has continued to search for additional information, and has recently discovered two more images of the Buk missile launcher linked to the downing of MH17.

The first image is one that appeared recently in the print edition of Der Spiegel, which was part of their joint investigation with Correct!v into the downing of MH17, which included visiting the same sites Bellingcat identified as being part of the route the MH17 linked Buk missile launcher travelled along on July 17th. This image shows the Buk missile launcher travelling through separatist controlled Donetsk on the morning of July 17th:


This image, provided by and reproduced with the permission of Paris Match, is the second of two images of the MH17 linked Buk missile launcher taken in Donestk, the first of which was published in Paris Match on July 25th. Here we can see much more of the Buk missile launcher, including the netting covering the rear of the Buk that was also visible in the photograph of the Buk missile launcher taken in Torez on July 17th:

Buk netting

More importantly, details on the Buk yet again confirms this is the same Buk missile launcher filmed inside Russia in June. In the Bellingcat investigation Origin of the Separatists’ Buk the damage on the rubber side skirts of Buk missile launchers seen in Ukraine and Russia was examined and a match was found between the MH17 linked Buk missile launcher and a Buk filmed inside Russia referred to as Buk 3×2

Buk 3x2 comparison

However, in the original Paris Match photograph that was used to compare the side skirt damage the right-hand side of the side skirt was not visible. In this newly published photograph that area is visible, and it continues to match the side skirt damage seen on Buk 3×2 inside Russia. On the exhaust slot on the right-hand side there’s also a black mark visible above the exhaust that’s also visible in the new Paris Match photographer. The following video shows the matching features:

While it’s reasonable to assume some of these exhaust marks might be removed in a short period of time, it seems unlikely that they would build up in a few weeks without very heavy use, and the fact this is another element that matches between images of the Buk missile launcher in Ukraine and Russia cannot be dismissed as a mere coincidence.

The second images uncovered by the Bellingcat investigation team is a new image of Buk 3×2 inside Russia, posted on in June to a page used by locals in the town of Alexeevka, southeast of Stary Oskol:


The time and location the photograph was taken fits with the route Bellingcat identified as travelled by the convoy containing Buk 3×2 towards the Ukrainian border in late June. In the earlier Bellingcat report it was noted there was a discrepancy between the comparison of the rubber side skirt of the Buk featured in the Paris Match photograph and the side skirt of Buk 3×2. This was a result of the skewing of the Paris Match image not being able to be correctly adjusted to take into account surfaces that were not flat, and we identified this discrepancy as being the result of major damage to the rubber side skirt:


What was particularly interesting about this damage is it seems while most rubber side skirts we examined on Buks from Ukraine and Russia had various dents, this level of damage is extremely rare, and this new photograph shows how severe the damage is to the rubber side skirt:

Buk skirt

Both of these new images, as well as the Correct!v investigation supports the earlier findings of the Bellingcat report Origin of the Separatists’ Buk that a Russian provided Buk missile launcher was filmed travelling through separatists held territory towards the alleged launch location of the missile that shot down flight MH17.

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.

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  1. Edison

    Good job tracking the BUK. But I still wonder why Ukrainian authorities sent the MH-17 directly to the conflict zone. 2 other planes would fly the same route, but changed course to fly over Crimea instead. Only Malaysia continued until its tragic fate, and no one knows why (neither seems to care). Until the tapes from Ukrainian ATC are available, no one can point full responsibility for the crime and I don’t believe I have to explain why it is a crime for a country to allow a plane to fly in a conflict zone where they have knowledge about the risk of anti-aircraft weapons to engage. Even if the rebels did shot the MH-17, if they mistook it for a military plane they are in a very better position to defend themselves in an international court than the Ukrainian military and air traffic authorities who deliberately send civilians to a danger zone. No surprise why the European families who lost relatives in that incident have already decided to prosecute Ukraine (and not Russia) for their deaths on a criminal negligence basis, very similar to that Israeli families used to sue Ukrainian military for the downing of Tupolev in 2001. I don’t buy any of Russian theories, but at least their government presented their evidence to be debunked. What evidence Ukraine provided? None, and neither NATO. If Russia’s fault in this case is clear as crystal, it’s makes no sense at all to hide evidence for such a long time allowing all kind of weird theories to emerge. Ukraine could bring both Russia and the separatists to an international court, which would give her far more legitimacy to ask for help from the West. Yet, they silence and so do the Dutch investigators. So with all due respect, all I see here is good investigation job but still speculation, with the notable exception of the anonymous defender who obviously knows very little about missiles, planes and Soviet weaponry in general, but yet has a very polite way to show that to the poor fellas who try to honestly debate with him.

    • Rob


      Potholer’s first law said: “Myths are created much faster than they can be debunked.”

      But your style comment, to re-cycle myths that have long been debunked, is in a propaganda class all by itself.

      • Edison

        I’ll be much happy to apologize for any “myth” I might mistakenly took for truth, if you do me the favor of telling exactly which one of my points are myths. Until then, I reserve my right to consider your comment as pure propaganda and with no class at all.

        • Rob

          In your first sentence, you said :

          “I still wonder “why Ukrainian authorities sent the MH-17 directly to the conflict zone.””

          That is a myth, spread by the Russian Defense Ministry in their July 21 press conference. Since Sept 9 (Dutch Safety Board report) we know that MH17 followed its intended flight path, and never did the Ukrainian authorities even attempted to change that path.

          And that was just the first sentence.

  2. unbeliever

    shooting down of MH 17 was an error,which could not be admitted…
    just think how putin war on ukraine involves masked attackers,no number plates on their vehicles,no insignia to identify origin…
    but putins proxies blew it…shot down mh17 in error,spoke about their error,tried to hide the equipment,and must create a vast web of disinformation,propaganda,lies
    to cover up
    simple as that
    putin is an idiot,like hitlers goebbels, putin thinks its better to tell a big lie
    thats his answer to his proxies mega error
    without putin the ukrainian revolt for independance would have gone NOWHERE
    yanukovich AND outin need to be SHOT!

    • Rob

      I don’t think shooting down MH17 was an “error”.
      I think it was deliberate.
      There were dozens of airliners passing over the same area in the 3 hours that that BUK was standing there south of Snizhne, and dozens afterwards.
      Minutes before, 2 Russian airliners passed overhead from the North, and minutes afterwards, Singapore Airlines and Air India flew over.
      Why would they be waiting there for three hours, letting dozens of flight pass, then switch on their radar for a minute, take out MH17, and immediately switch off their radar again, so they don’t see the many other flights passing over ?

      It simply makes no sense at all to take down ONLY one airliner. MH17, on the 17th, an airliner that was flying for 17 years exactly, to the day.

  3. MS

    The main issue I have with your investigation is the omission of evidence speaking against your theories, and bluntly said that evidence is top quality:

    BBC video with eyewitnesses shortly after the shotdown (why did you not interview THEM?)

    Leaked US intelligence to Robert Parry, arguably the best connected journalist to US intelligence whistleblowers.

    In addition a BUK contrail cloud looks very different from your picture without date. And why is it cut off to the top?

    The Ukrainian army chief himself said there are no regular Russian troops in Ukraine

    And from a wider perspective, 10 former US intelligence officers said and signed with their names, that Kerry already did not tell the truth about the Syriuan Sarin gas attack.

  4. MS

    Another note to the Reuters ‘interview 9 months later.

    THe Dutch Safety Board reported 100% cloud cover for that region, so at least 3 of the 4 witnesses made untrue statement reporting to have seen MH17 exploding.

    This is also confirmed by BBC Daniel Sandford, tweeting “I have spoken to people who saw a BUK on the ground there that day in rebel hands. Impossible to see any planes. Cloudy skies.”

    It should be reminded that both Sandford as well as the BBC Russia team went there shortly after, interviewed locals and nobody reported a rebel BUK launch.

  5. Oleg

    New fake report in the Russian media It recognizes that plane was hit by Buk (what a surprise!), but It holds wrong analysis that disregards relative motion of plane, missile and the missile fragments, and reports wrong conclusion on the direction and location of the Buk launcher. Simple re-evaluation of the pictures in the report, with known velocities of the plane ~25m/s, missile ~1080m/s and missile fragments ~900m/s actually points to the sector in the direction Torez-Sneznhnoe (controlled by russia-backed forces)

  6. elliot_au

    Sorry, but Volvo tracks are user by Ukrainian Army, not Russian. See video with Ukrainian Buk number 312.


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