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Is this the Launch Site of the Missile that Shot Down Flight MH17? A Look at the Claims and Evidence

January 27, 2015

By Daniel Romein

In a previous investigation related to the 17 July 2014 downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) in eastern Ukraine, the Bellingcat investigation team provided the origin and movements of a Buk M1 missile launcher filmed and photographed that same day that travelled from Donetsk past Zuhres, through Torez and Snizhne. Before reaching Snizhne, the Buk M1 missile launcher was transported on a red low-loader hauled by a white Volvo truck featuring a telephone number and unique blue stripes. In Snizhne, however, the Buk was unloaded off the hauler and driven south out of Snizhne under its own power. In the early hours of 18 July 2014 the missile launcher was spotted in Luhansk, where it was again being hauled by the same white Volvo truck, but this time it was missing one missile.

The location of the Buk between its last sighting in Snizhne and its appearance in Luhansk the following morning is a vital question that will shed light on the culprits and circumstances of the MH17 tragedy. This report will consider four vital clues that allow us to estimate the launch location for the missile that downed MH17: 1) photographs of a white smoke trail taken a few moments after the crash of flight MH17, 2) visible burn damage to a wheat field that appeared between 16 and 20 July 2014, 3) audio recordings reportedly from 17 July 2014, and 4) a US intelligence satellite image from 22 July 2014.

Two hours after the crash of the MH17, a photograph that showed a vertical white smoke trail and a smaller grey smoke patch to the left of the white smoke trail was posted on Twitter by someone who claimed that this photograph, provided by an anonymous photographer, depicted the launch site of the Buk launcher that downed MH17. A few days later, a number of bloggers geolocated features in the image, including the approximate location of the photographer and an approximate origin point of the white smoke trail. In December, the photographer provided additional photographs, and a Dutch news outlet enlisted the help of outside research experts to review the pictures. They assessed that they were authentic.

On 20 July, 1 August, and 15 August 2014, Google updated its satellite imagery to include images of Snizhne and Torez, revealing suspicious tracks in wheat fields and a part of what seemed to be a burned wheat field with scorched earth south of Snizhne.

On 22 July 2014, US intelligence officials published a blurry black and white satellite image with the flight paths of both MH17 and the Buk M1 missile that downed the passenger plane. Because of the relative low quality of the image, many were disappointed by the declassified intelligence. However, after re-examining this image, it turned out to be far more informative than first thought.

On 24 July 2014, conversations in Snizhne and Torez over the smartphone app Zello recorded at the time of the downing of MH17 were posted on YouTube. One conversation was of a woman recounting that she saw a missile flying overhead while she was in a garden and describing the direction of the missile. In addition, tapped phone conversations on 17 July 2014 between pro-Russian separatists published by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) provided information about the destination of the Buk missile launcher on 17 July 2014.

In consideration of all of these clues, this report concludes that the likely missile launch location was in a burned wheat field south of Snizhne.

The Separatists’ Buk Missile Launcher in Snizhne

In Bellingcat’s earlier investigation, “Origin of the Separatists’ Buk,” the Bellingcat investigation team established the route of the Buk on 17 July 2014: Donetsk to Zuhres to Torez to Snizhne and then to Luhansk the following morning. The first of two Snizhne sightings took place in the center of the city, where it was moving under its own power. A photograph taken of the missile launcher was posted on Twitter on 18 July, and after this photograph was taken, a video was shot of the missile launcher driving south through Snizhne. This video was first posted on YouTube on 17 July 2014. Both the picture and the video have been geolocated by Bellingcat and others.

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The picture and video raise two important questions: Why was the Buk headed south toward the city limits of Snizhne? And why was the Buk no longer being hauled and instead driving under its own power? From various sources it is apparent that from July until the end of August, an ongoing battle between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian army was taking place south of Snizhne in the villages of Stepanivka, Marynivka, and near the monument hill of Savur-Mohila in Saurivka. The road south of Snizhne (T0522) leads directly to this area, so it is possible that the Buk intended to provide anti-air support in the area. This may shed some light on the second question, as the Buk must be unloaded from the truck in order to fire its missile.

Map of the area south of Snizhne on Google Maps with the conflict area in a green circle, the location of the picture of a Buk M1 missile launcher in a small red circle and the location of the video of a Buk M1 missile launcher in a small blue circle.

Map of the area south of Snizhne on Google Maps with the conflict area in a green circle, the location of the picture of a Buk M1 missile launcher in a small red circle and the location of the video of a Buk M1 missile launcher in a small blue circle.

To our knowledge, no other pictures or videos have been made of the Buk M1 missile launcher in this area, and only one other video was posted on YouTube on 18 July 2014 of the missile launcher being hauled again by the white Volvo truck in Luhansk, this time clearly missing one missile.

July 2014 photographs of the white smoke trail

Just three hours after the crash of MH17, a picture was published on Twitter that appeared to show a ropeway on the horizon between “Lutugina” and “Tsof” in the area of Torez, which is close to Snizhne. The image was posted at 7:23 PM local time, three hours after the crash of Flight MH17.

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Several claims have been made that assert that the picture was a fabrication of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU). This is unlikely for the following reasons: The photograph was posted only three hours after the MH17 crash, the general location of the white smoke trail is in the same area where the Buk was seen heading toward when last seen in Snizhne, and the weather matches that of July 17 as demonstrated in subsequent photographs that were released. Additionally, the SBU did not share this photograph until two days later, while, in contrast, the 18 July 2014 Luhansk video was released very quickly by the SBU itself. The photograph did not appear on any official Ukrainian channels before it was posted on Twitter, and the earliest posting of the photograph by a Ukrainian official was by Ministry of Internal Affairs official Anton Gerashchenko on Facebook at 7:45 PM (local time).

On 21 July 2014, the blogger Ukraine@War geolocated the photograph. The Bellingcat investigation team has verified the geolocation, which indicates that the photograph was taken north of Torez in the direction of a mine in eastern Torez. A detailed look at the geolocation of this photograph can be found here.

Dutch news outlet RTL Nieuws conducted an interview with the anonymous photographer of the white smoke trail in December 2014. Along with the interview, RTL Nieuws acquired additional photographs taken right after the original photograph in the same location. Two research organizations, FOX-IT and NIDF, verified the authenticity of the photographs, while two other organizations, NEO and TuDelft (the Technical University in Delft), examined the white smoke trail and geolocated the photographs. The anonymous photographer has given the original photographs, including the memory card holding them, to the official Dutch investigation of the downing of MH17.

Second picture taken on 17 July 2014 from the north of Torez.

Second picture taken on 17 July 2014 from the north of Torez.

Considering the previous geolocation evidence, there can be no doubt that the photographs that claim to show the Buk launch site from 17 July 2014 were taken from northern Torez and show the area of eastern Torez near the Lutugina mine in the direction south of Snizhne.

Authenticity of photographs

There have been many claims that the 17 July 2014 pictures are not genuine, manipulated, or were taken at a different date.

As part of this investigation, Bellingcat contacted the photographer who took the smoke trail images, and provided the images in  a RAW image format. To protect the privacy and safety of the photographer, we have decided not to publish anything about the exact file type of the pictures or any other metadata, as it would reveal the type of camera the photographer used. What we will publish is that the second published picture was taken first at 16:25:41 EEST, and the first published picture was taken 7 seconds later at 16:25:48 EEST. According to the photographer, the first picture was taken about 30 seconds after the explosion. Because we know that flight MH17 was hit around 16:20 EEST, the camera’s time stamp was approximately 4 minutes to 4 minutes and 30 seconds ahead of the real time. The metadata (or Exif data) of the original files show that all date and time properties like camera date, digitized date, modified date, and file date show a date of 17 July 2014 and times of 16:25:41 and 16:25:48.

Images in a RAW format can be edited in photo editing software and saved as a different format, like BMP, JPG, PNG, TIFF, etc., but this will always result in a different file date, namely, the date and time the file has been saved after editing. Photo editing software is not able to save files in a RAW format, because this is not a “positive” image format. In addition, because pictures can only be edited by photo editing software, changes to the pictures will always result in modified metadata.

While software capable of saving images in RAW format does exist, it is usually the software of the camera itself and cannot edit images because images in a RAW format first have to be converted to an editable image format (e.g. BMP, JPG, PNG, TIFF). Also, when the file in RAW format is saved, the modified date of the metadata will be changed.

Based on the metadata of the RAW files we received, we can be completely certain that these files are the original files and that the pictures were taken on 17 July 2014 at 16:25:41 EEST and 16:25:48 EEST, according to the date and time set in the camera. Though it is possible to set the camera itself to a different date and time, when we take into account that the first picture was released two hours after the crash, the only scenario where what we see on the pictures is not the launch of the Buk missile that was seen above eastern Torez on 17 July 2014 is that the photographer took a picture of a missile launch on a previous date, and his camera date and time was inadvertently set to 17 July 2014 at 16:25 EEST. The probability of this being the case, of course, is close to zero.

Another interesting detail noted by the Bellingcat investigation team is that, based on the movement of the smoke between the photographs, the smoke was moving toward the east, which corresponds to reports about the wind direction that day. The weather conditions in the photos are also consistent with the weather conditions that day, with clouds visible in the unzoomed photograph. A more detailed examination of the photographs can be found here.

Full-sized, uncompressed copies of the original RAW files can be found here.

The Possible Launch Location

With the smoke photographs geolocated, it was then possible to establish where the smoke was originating from. Early attempts by the person who tweeted the original photograph and the Ukraine@War blog pointed to fields to the south of Snizhne, where the Buk filmed heading out of Snizhne would have had easy access. The following image was created based on Bellingcat’s own geolocation and analysis of the photograph and closely matches the work done previously on Ukraine@War:

View lines of the first picture of 17 July 2014 with the view frame (blue lines), the view lines of the white smoke trail (red lines) and the view lines of the smaller grey smoke trail (brown lines).

View lines of the first picture of 17 July 2014 with the view frame (blue lines), the view lines of the white smoke trail (red lines) and the view lines of the smaller grey smoke trail (brown lines).

On 20 July 2014, social news agency Storyful shared satellite map imagery taken the same day that showed areas south of Snizhne, including the road the Buk missile launcher was filmed heading south on three days earlier and the fields at the end of that road. Track marks in those fields were noted by a number of individuals, including Ukraine@War and Roland Oliphant, a reporter with the Daily Telegraph who visited the area.

Oliphant discovered one field where a corner had been burnt over a wide area. He took a number of photographs, which were subsequently used by the Ukraine@War blog to geolocate the exact location of the field. This geolocation has been reviewed and confirmed by the Bellingcat investigation team and shows a field just south of where the tracks were visible on the 20 July 2014 satellite map imagery.

Part of a wheat field where scorched earth and burned wheat was seen by Roland Oliphant of the Telegraph from 15 August 2014 satellite image.

Part of a wheat field where scorched earth and burned wheat was seen by Roland Oliphant of the Telegraph from 15 August 2014 satellite image.

In the map below, the partly burnt  and ploughed area of the field has been highlighted in yellow, and is in line with where the grey smoke was visible on the photographs of the smoke trail, marked with brown lines:

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Audio Recordings

Shortly after the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) on July 17th, an audio clip was shared on social media sites claiming to be a recording of civilians near the town of Snizhne discussing the crash on the audio chat application Zello. Zello is a popular service in separatist areas, and this particular recording purports to capture what would be a key discussion about events on July 17th.

The individuals in the video describe both an “upward” missile launch and the crash of MH17. While it is difficult to independently verify the authenticity of the audio, it is possible to compare what is described in the audio with other evidence about the downing of MH17, including the launch location of the missile.

Multiple times throughout the recording, people are heard referring to the location they are in or the location where they can see something happening. Two people talk about KhimMash (Химмаш in Russian), an industrial plant to the north of Snizhne, probably because they saw smoke rising from north of Snizhne. Other locations, like “mine 8” (“Шахта №8”) in the west of Snizhne and “Cheryomushky” (“Черемушки”) next to the KhimMash plant, are also mentioned, but one person describes a missile flying over her while she was in a garden. She says the missile came from the direction of Saurivka, a small village to the south of Snizhne near Stepanivka, where the Savur-Mohyla monument is located. The woman claims that the loud noise of the launch caused her to seek shelter in the basement of her home with her mother. This would seem to indicate the missile was launched relatively close to her house.

The woman describes herself as being in “Oktyabr” (“Октябрь”), which can be found south of Snizhne on the Russian Yandex Maps site:

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With some uncertainty, she goes on to describe the direction she believes the missile was launched from, namely, Saurivka, which is south-southeast of her location.

On 18 July, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) published another audio recording relevant to identifying the missile launch location. In this conversation, we first hear separatists talking about a Buk M1 surface-to-air missile system and later that the Buk is in Donetsk. We then hear that the Buk was unloaded somewhere and driving under its own power and that the Buk has to be delivered to an area nearby called “Pervomaiskoe.”

A search for this location yielded a “Pervomaiske” near Donetsk, a “Pervomaisk” near Luhansk, a “Pervomaisk” near Mykolaiv, a “Pervomaskyi” near Kharkiv, a “Pervomaiske” near Dnipropetrovsk, a “Pervomaiskyi” to the southeast of Snizhne, and another village north of Snizhne called “Pervomaiske.”

The image below shows the locations mentioned in the audio recordings in relation to the suspected launch site visited by Roland Oliphant:

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US Intelligence Satellite Map Imagery

On July 22nd, 2014, US intelligence officials published a black and white satellite map image showing what they claimed to be the path of the Buk missile that downed MH17.

Although the map marks Snizhne as the launch site of the missile, the exact location of the site was not immediately clear due to the quality of the image.

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While the quality of the declassified satellite map image is relatively poor, it is nonetheless possible to find the approximate launch site indicated on the map. Certain large geographical features are visible on the satellite map image, and by examining Google Earth satellite map imagery, it is possible to find these same features.

For instance, there is a curved lake and two areas of forest northeast of the location identified as the launch site:

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To the southwest, there are a series of small lakes running north to south which match perfectly with what is visible on both sets of satellite map imagery:

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Zooming in closer, we can make out other features, including an oddly shaped field just south of the launch location:

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The oddly shaped field is a just to the south of the village Chervonyi Zhovten, which is north of the Savur-Mohila monument in Saurivka and slightly west of Stepanivka. Due to the width of the line and the resolution of the US satellite map imagery it is not possible to find the exact location the line originates from, but it appears that it would be very close to the area where the lines below intersect, south of Snizhne:

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Based on the image above, the line comes very close to originating from the suspected launch site:

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Conclusion

Based on the foregoing information, it seems clear there are a number of pieces of evidence pointing toward one specific location south of Snizhne. Photographs published online two hours after MH17 was shot down point directly to an area that is clearly visible on satellite map imagery, showing a field that was unburnt on 16 July 2014 but visibly burnt only a few days after that date. On 17 July 2014, a Buk missile launcher was filmed only a few kilometres to the north of this site heading south in the direction of the location we have identified. US intelligence also points to the same field, and audio recordings, while difficult to authenticate, also point to roughly the same area.

Taken separately, these pieces of evidence are not particularly compelling. When combined, however, they provide strong support for the assertion that the missile that downed MH17 originated from the potential launch site we have identified.

Daniel Romein

Daniel Romein is an IT-specialist and open source investigator focused on the MH17 case and the conflict in Ukraine.

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100 Comments

    • Daniel Romein

      This location is based on testimonies of a few witnesses, the audio recordings of Zello conversations where some people mention the KhimMash plant and a wrong geolocation of the direction the pictures of 17 july in Torez were taken from. The tracks they have seen in the fields could have been made by tanks as well.

      Reply
  1. Yuriy

    Transcript of the 30 th session of the UN Security Council in Ukraine.
    President: Any suggestions?
    Churkin (Russian Federation): May I shit on the table?
    Everybody: NO!!!
    Churkin: (is shitting on the table in front of Klimkin (Ukraine)) Thank you!
    Ukraine: You’ve seen it, haven’t you?! Russia has just shat on our table!
    Churkin: You’ve got no evidence!
    Ukraine: It was your ass and it was your excrement coming out!
    Churkin: Present us some facts!
    US Representative: our experts have analyzed the substance, modeled the coordinates and came to conclusions that there is no doubt it is excrement and Russia has shat it!
    Churkin: Present us some evidence!
    UK Representative: This is outrageous! No doubt this is Russia that shat it! We can’t stand it any longer!
    Germany Representative: I suggest we should discuss possible expressions of our common solicitude towards Russia’s behavior.
    Churkin: I’m putting a veto upon this decision! (is shitting on Ukraine’s table again)
    Ukraine: You’ve seen it, haven’t you?! Again! Russia has shat on our table again! This is excrement, this is his ass, this is him putting on his trousers!
    UN President: If these facts are proved we should react in appropriate way!
    Churkin: I repeat, present us at least one prove!
    Germany: We hoped that sanctions would help, but every time it stinks worse and worse! We suspect that Russia probably shits on Ukraine’s table.
    Churkin: Present us some evidence!
    UN President: Let’s take a decision that we are deeply shocked!
    Churkin: I’m putting a veto upon this decision! (Is shitting on President’s table)
    Ukraine: Have you seen it?! Just now Russia has shat on the UN President’s table!!! It is dangerous as it can shit on any European country’s table!
    Churkin: You haven’t presented us any evidence that we could admit!
    US Representative: Pentagon’s satellites noticed growing stink emerging from Russia. We should consider a possibility to deprive Russia of its rights to shit at UN meetings!
    Churkin: I’m putting a veto upon this decision! (Is dumping a load on Ukraine’s table). You’ve got no evidence. On the contrary all the facts show that Ukraine has shat on itself!
    Ukraine: Have you seen it? Russia has just shat on our table again!
    Germany Representative: It’s getting harder to be here! We are calling the parties to begin a dialogue!
    Churkin: Russia wants to use its right for an additional statement! (He’s taking a plastic folder and he’s starting to scatter excrement about all UN members). Russia is a great country and it won’t let anyone to suppress it! You have no right to dictate us your terms without presenting any fact! Look at yourselves! You’re all assholes! You’re sitting here up shit creek without a paddle. You stink! How can you tell us how to behave?! Thank you for your attention. (He is throwing his dirty folder into the President, spitting on the US representative’s boots and leaving).
    UN President: I thank each and all of you for your position. The next meeting of solicitude towards Ukraine will take place when the hall is ventilated.

    Reply
    • Rob

      In the real life version Russia is pointing out that the shit on Ukraine’s table is clear evidence that Ukraine is doing the shitting and UN should adapt a motion to smear it in Ukraine’s face.

      And since UN does not support Russia’s motion, the UN shows hostile behavior and there will be catastrophic consequences.

      Reply
    • Daniel Romein

      We have read a shorter version of this article before, but the claims they make are not true for the following reasons:
      1) the photographs were taken on 17 july 2014 at 16:25 local time (according to the exif data of original photographs which have been researched by Dutch photography experts Fox-IT and NIDF), while the video was filmed/uploaded 16 July 2014.
      2) the Grad video was filmed in Platovo near Gukovo at this lake (several videos have been filmed here, most of them we have been able to geolocate): http://www.google.com/maps/@48.0745903,39.9254539,1435m/data=!3m1!1e3
      3) A Grad rocket launch does not leave a long white smoke trail high up in the sky, since it is not a surface-to-air missile, but a ground missile for targets on a distance of about 20 kilometers.
      4) the weather conditions on the first published photograph of 17 July might look very bright, since the color settings have been edited to make the whte smoke trail more vissible, but as you can see the original version of that picture shows white haze.
      5) the trajectory of the Buk missile is drawn not correctly, the plane was hit near Petropavlivka and not that near to Hrabove.

      Reply
    • Rob

      Daniel’s reply is way too nice.

      The anonymous ‘blogger’ who wrote this report is using the documented and geo-located launch of GRAD rockets from Russian territory into Ukraine on the 16th, as an argument against the picture of the BUK missile trail that took out MH17.

      The hypocrisy of Russian propaganda about MH17 is mind boggling and deeply insulting to all the victims of Russia’s dirty war in Ukraine, including the victims of MH17.

      Reply
  2. Carlo

    I would drop all references to file time/date stamps, RAW files and all other software related facts from MH-17 investigation. It is possible, in fact very easy to manipulate content of the files. If I would do it I would photoshop whatever I need, print the image and then take a picture directly from it. Someone with proper software could manipulate the content of RAW files directly.
    In fact these two photos are taken at very different focus distance, Even possibly the author changed the lenses. Everyone familiar with photography knows that wide angle shots are prone to vignetting i.e. darkening corners of the photo. Narrow angle shots suffer from this much less. So why do the presented photos expose the opposite ? Long focus shot ( the first photo in the article) displays severe vignetting, while the wide angle ( second image ) is completely free from it ?

    Reply
    • Daniel Romein

      It is indeed easy to change the dates in metadata, but most software change codes in the exif data and then there still is the modify date of the file versus creation date. A photograph taken from a computer screen or printed image would be noticed by experts. The second picture might not be a wide angle picture and vignetting is something that may occur all along the zoom range as is written in: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vignetting
      Aparently the aperture has more influence on vignetting than the zoom level.

      Reply
      • Carlo

        So I took time to go your link and here what it says:
        “When using superzoom lenses, vignetting may occur all along the zoom range, depending on the aperture and the focal length. However, it may not always be visible, except at the widest end (the shortest focal length)”

        It just confirms what I said. Yes you can have vignetting at any focal distance but this sever as on the quoted photos normally happen only at the very wide end.
        I would need to look at the exif to check what kind of lenses were used, but I am 99% sure that the photos in the article are not consistent with common practice.
        Also it is obvious that the first photo is a full shot, not a cropped snipped, as again confirmed by the vignetting, but the quality of the picture is extremely low for any even the cheapest camera. It almost looks like someone deliberately messed it up ( to hide the fact it was messed with ? )

        Reply
        • Daniel Romein

          The focal length of the wide picture is 55.00 mm, so not a wide angle shot. And even with a good camera it’s possible to make a bad photograph, when it is not set right and the picture is taken in a hurry. The image is obviously blurred because the camera focused on the black cables instead of the background. The aperture of both photographs is 8.0, and a link in the Wikipedia article explains why with this aperture a zoomed picture gives vignetting, also a photograph with standard focal length gives the lowest vignetting: http://slrgear.com/reviews/zproducts/pentax18-135f35-56wr/1vignet.gif

          Reply
      • James

        Honestly, your assertion that the metadata for the image could not easily be manipulated is largely bogus. You are correct that most image software will leave a trace that it has altered the file but have also completely overlooked the fact that you don’t need complex software to do that kind of manipulation. There is nothing preventing someone from opening a file in a hex editor to make the changes. There is also nothing stopping someone from tweaking the filesystem to change the date of modification.

        Reply
        • Daniel Romein

          We already explained that metadata can be changed with tools, but also will leave changed codes in the exif data. To alter the medata with a hex editor without corrupting the file need a fair amount of skills, but a professional might be able to alter the metadata without leaving any trace. However such a perfect forgery needs time and 3 hours is very little time for a perfect forgery.

          Reply
      • Daniel Romein

        1) the original photograph has different color settings, the vignetting apparently is only visible after altering these settings.
        2) adepting color settings to emphasize certain details easily can be done within a few hours, most people who have experience with photo editing software can even do this within a few minutes.

        Reply
        • Max van der Werff

          “the vignetting apparently is only visible after altering these settings.” It must be simple then to demonstrate the color settings so BMP becomes vignetted altered image. Can you share this info with us so everybody can verify?

          Reply
  3. Keith

    Outstanding work!
    Ignore the trolls. Try are getting paid, no doubt, in rubles–so they’re very, very unhappy already.

    Reply
  4. Arnold

    The fact that the US satellite map image corresponds nicely with the geolocation by Ukraineatwar doesn’t prove anything. I had discovered this communality a few weeks ago too (see https://twitter.com/ArnoldGreidanus/status/554029204241907712 ) but I wouldn’t present this as an argument, or evidence.

    Ukraineatwar published his geolocation findings on the launch spot on July 21st. The US satellite map image was released a day later, on July 22nd.
    The image used by the US is from Digital Globe from 2010.
    The location marked on the image was determined by a US space-based infrared system (SBIRS), but the original data have not been released. Therefore this picture with the lauch spot and missile trajectory drawn upon cannot be regarded as authentic material.
    Also, it is quite plausible that US and Ukraine intelligence have synchronized their stories for political reasons. In short: unless the original SBIRS data are released in some form this satellite map image doesn’t mean anything conclusive.

    Reply
    • Rob

      Your suggestion that the US Pentagon, and Ukraine intelligence conspired to match the results that ukraine@war fact checker P.Martin published on the 21st of July is probably the biggest compliment and advertisement for “open source” journalism ever achieved.

      Reply
    • Daniel Romein

      It is very unlikely that US and Ukraine intelligence have synchronized their stories. Not only the photographs of 17 July and the US satellite image of 22 July point to (almost) the same location, but also the burned field seen on satellite images of 20 and 21 July (which was not seen on 16 July), the Zello conversation, the tapped conversation between separatists and the Buk missile laucnher seen driving south of Snizhne on 17 July point to the same location. It just is impossible that Ukraine intelligence would have created a burned field to the south of Snizhne and let a Buk drive through Snizhne, territory under control of pro-Russian separatists.

      Reply
    • Daniel Romein

      Arnold, your geolocation of the crash site on your map isn’t correct, it should be a bit more northeast. The result will be that the point where the lines cross will be more northeast too, much closer to the suspected launch site. Remember that the quality of the US satelite image is very low, so a margin of 200 to 500 meters isn’t that bad at all.

      Reply
  5. Arnold

    I know my crosspoint is 1,34 km from the launch spot identified. My aim was only to make a rough estimation.
    As for the chance of a US/Ukraine conspiracy: I agree this is highly unlikely. However, as long as the authenticity of the BUK video or the Zello conversation cannot be established, there is a chance. Besides, the BUK on the video or photographed at Shnizne cannot be identified as the 3×2 BUK.
    Nevertheless, I do think the Bellingcat scenario is currently the most plausible available.

    Reply
    • Daniel Romein

      Remember that on 17 July there have been a number of posts on Twitter about a Buk sighting in Snizhne. These posts were made several hours before the downing of flight MH17. The picture of the Buk shows a few white marks at the same location of Buk 3’2, but since the quality of the image is not very clear, it indeed can not be certain it is the same Buk, but taking into account that a Buk the same day has been spotted in Donetsk, Zuhres and Torez (in Torez 1 hour before the sightings in Snizhne) and that all these towns were controlled by the pro-Russian separatists, who probably had just one Buk missile launcher at that moment, we can safely assume it is the same missile launcher as seen in Donetsk, Zuhres and Torez.

      Reply
  6. Arnold

    I disagree on the latter. Adding up probabilities of distinct observations doesn’t provide conclusive evidence – or a ‘safe assumption’. The problem with all the materials gathered is that they haven’t been verified as authentic. E.g. at first there was one Paris Match pic, then Der Spiegel comes up with another, and it’s likely they are both from a dashboard cam. So where’s the original video? Same goes for the GirkinGirkin photo of the BUK at Snihzne – this may well be photoshopped. The original post of the BUK video disappeared, though the Youtube account is still there. Why? The tweets of the sighting of a BUK are by the same person who published the missile trail picture in the evening of the 17th. This leaves us with the AP journalists’ report, but we still don’t know their names. In short: unless the materials or observations can be traced to their sources and their authenticity is verified, it may well be a SBU setup. This may sound far-fetched, but we have no reason to trust the SBU or the Ukraine givernment on this issue. (The Luhansk video of the BUK is also dubious, since that area was Ukrainian territory at the time.) The SBU’s blatant lies on the treatment of the MH17 victims’ bodies in the Donetsk morgue show they’re not trustworthy. (This only one example, though a very saddening one)
    To conclude: I do agree the Bellingcat scenario is the most plausible line of events, but it hasn’t been proven yet.

    Reply
    • Rob

      Arnold said “The Luhansk video of the BUK is also dubious, since that area was Ukrainian territory at the time.”

      As far as I understand, the Nechua-Levyts’koho intersection where the Luhansk BUK video was taken was under Russian control at the time.

      But it seems that you want to argue that the BUK driving through Luhansk on that video, on that particular Volvo trailer, was controlled by Ukraine and a SBU set-up.

      If so, how do you explain that that same Volvo truck and trailer was observed in the morning of the 17th driving from Donetsk to Snihzne ?

      Did the Ukrainian SBU make an exact duplicate of that Volvo truck and then drove it through Luhansk, just so they could make this video ? Or was the SBU in charge of that same Volvo truck plus BUK when it made its parade from Donetsk to Snihzne ?

      There are not a lot of other options if you want to assume that Ukraine controlled that BUK and Volvo in the Luhansk video.

      Reply
          • Max van der Werff

            Zardos, journalist Verweij does not claim at all Ukrainian army had control of Lugansk. You did not read what you are commenting about. Or you comment without understanding what you read.
            2) You write: “Lugansk has never been under control of Ukrainian army.”
            You can read New York Times “The Ukrainian military on Sunday moved into the heart of the separatist hub of Luhansk for the first time, officials said”
            http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/18/world/europe/ukraine.html?_r=0
            That claim was indeed false as everybody now knows.

          • Max van der Werff

            Your very undetailed map is dated July 16 and Verweij knows what he is talking about; he used these maps while he was working on his repo about BUK in Donbass. His statement that BUK sighting was on Ukraine government controlled territory has not been falsified by Bellingcat as far as my knowledge goes.

          • Rob

            Max,
            Not sure why you evade the question.
            The question is not who controlled that intersection in Luhansk where the video was made.
            Instead, the question is, IF Ukraine controlled that intersection, and the BUK, and the Volvo with trailer in that video, then HOW COME an identical BUK and Volvo trailer paraded from Donetsk to Snihzne on the morning of the 17th ?

    • Daniel Romein

      The original video of the Snizhne Buk is not there anymore, because the account has been terminated: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNJZBO408kE
      The photo of the Buk was posted before the downing of flight MH17, so why would anyone photoshop a Buk in Snizhne, while nothing happened yet?
      The tweets were not only made by the same user as the tweet of the white smoke trail, there were other tweets as well, all of them clearly posted before the downing of flight MH17. Luhansk was under control of separatists, many maps about the conflict can show that, just as the whole area between Donetsk and Snizhne.

      Reply
      • Alex

        “The photo of the Buk was posted before the downing of flight MH17, so why would anyone photoshop a Buk in Snizhne, ”
        According to Bellingcat https://www.bellingcat.com/news/uk-and-europe/2014/07/28/the-buk-that-could-an-open-source-odyssey/

        “This photograph is the first to show the Buk dismounted from the trailer seen in previous photographs, and was taken around 1:30pm (Your link http://www.koreandefense.com/how-to-find-the-missing-buk-system/) in the town of Snizhne. ”
        That site reports,
        “Based on my research, @GirkinGirkin was among the first, if not the first, to tweet the photo of a Buk system.

        #Снежное О русских зенитчиках и “Буке” в Снежном “это дом 50 лет октября, в нем пирка, недалеко уголек и фуршет” pic.twitter.com/vOJEoya4lB

        — IgorGirkin (@GirkinGirkin) July 17, 2014”

        That tweet was in fact made at 12:27 am July 18th , well after the downing.

        https://twitter.com/GirkinGirkin/status/489884062577094656/photo/1

        Reply
        • Daniel Romein

          Ok, the tweet itself indeed was posted much later, but at the photograph we clearly can see it was not 12:27 am, because that was after midnight. Still even when the person would have tweeted a random photograph, how to explain a video being uploaded of a Buk missile launcher the same day? Or maybe the same person also had a video of a Buk driving through Snizhne somewhere and uploaded this one as well? How often do Buk missile launchers drive through Snizhne? Is it just a coinsidence? And how well this coinsidence matches with the US satellite image, the Torez photographs of 17 July 2014, the audio recordings and the fact that the same day a Buk missile launcher was seen in Donetsk, Zuhres and Torez. Isn’t that a bit too much coinsidence?

          Reply

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