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Evidence the Russian Military Supplied the Type of Missile Used to Shoot Down MH17

June 3, 2015

By Eliot Higgins

On June 2nd 2015 Russian arms manufacturer Almaz-Antey presented evidence which it claimed showed the specific type of missile used to shoot down Flight MH17 in Ukraine on July 17th. They were quoted as stating

“If a surface-to-air missile system was used [to hit the plane], it could only have been a 9M38M1 missile of the BUK-M1 system.”

They went on to add

“Production of BUK-M1 missiles was discontinued in 1999, at the same time Russia passed all such missiles that were left to international clients.”

The clear implication was that the Buk missile used to shoot down MH17 could have not come from Russia. The most obvious visual difference between the 9M38M1 missile, and the newer 9M317 is the length of the fins, with the 9M38M1 have longer fins, as visible below.

Despite these longer fins being visible on Buk missiles loaded onto launchers at Russia’s Victory Day Parade in Chita (clearly visible in this video) the Almaz-Antey’s head, Yan Novikov claimed “that only the newer BUK-M2 systems with 9M317 missiles take part in modern parades” adding “even an untrained eye can tell the two apart”.  Despite this claim, internet users came across numerous images of what seemed to be 9M38M1 missiles in military service.  

One image uncovered by the Bellingcat investigation team was of particular interest. Reuters’ photographs taken on a road near Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, dated August 16th 2014, shows Russian military vehicles heading towards the town, close to the Ukrainian border. Trucks in the photographs are carrying a number of missile crates, and their markings give a clear indication of their likely contents.

9M38M1
As can be clearly seen, these crates are marked 9M38M1, but what is even more interesting is who appears to be transporting the missiles. The number plates visible end with 50, the same region that the 53rd Brigade originates from, who were filmed in late June 2014 transporting the Buk missile launcher that downed MH17 to this same region close to the Ukrainian border (full report here). In fact, it appears that these may be some of the same vehicles filmed in the June 2014 convoy. The crane visible in one of the photographs appears to share the same number plate, beginning 0502, as a crane filmed in the 53rd Brigade’s June convoy.

Crane 0502

Another truck visible in this video appears to have the same number plate as one of the trucks transporting the missiles in the Reuters photographs.

Truck number plate

Images shared by members of the 53rd Brigade also show 9M38M1 missiles were used by the brigade in recent years, for example this image from 2012.

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And this image from 2015

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It is also possible to identify 9M38M1s loaded onto vehicles that were part of the June 23rd-25th 53rd Brigade convoy that transported the Buk missile launcher the shot down Flight MH17 close to the Ukrainian border. This video shows vehicles in the convoy, including missile loaders, where the long fins associated with the 9M38M1 missiles are visible.

Buk Missile

From this it is clear that not only are the type of missiles Almaz-Antey claimed were used to shoot down Flight MH17 used by the Russian military, but they are also used by the brigade that supplied the Buk missile launcher that shot down Flight MH17, and were transported in the same convoy that took the Buk missile launcher that shot down Flight MH17 to the border.

———-

Following the US release of Hiding in Plain Sight: Putin’s War in Ukraine, a report produced by the Atlantic Council with the help of Bellingcat, a special press release at the Atlantic Council’s Wroclaw Global Forum in Poland, will feature the next dimension of the report including new facts about MH17 that might change the dynamics of Russia’s denial about its role in the incident. As yesterday’s press conference showed, we’ve already seen a notable change in narrative in Moscow, attempting to further distort the truth.

 

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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164 Comments

  1. Vasim

    Btw, when Russia took the Crimea region, they’ve obtained a lot of stuff from Ukraine’s army in the region (and there were buk-m1 with missiles for sure). There was a lot of evidences that some of this stuff got supplied to Donbass’s rebels.

    Reply
  2. Jason Trucker

    There are insinuations in this article that suggest Russia’s military parades show the use of BUK-M1 missiles. I checked on this, and it is as I suspected:

    Horses**t…

    https://youtu.be/GhsAXeZ-iWw?t=1h2m28s

    Check at that exact moment (01:02:28), the AA tanks in the parade, the ONLY tanks used in that parade, are using the modern missiles, not the long-finned old ones.

    Something tells me BellingCat is about as reliable a news-source as FOX…

    Reply
    • Jason Trucker

      And again…

      https://youtu.be/GhsAXeZ-iWw?t=1h5m25s

      https://youtu.be/GhsAXeZ-iWw?t=1h5m35s

      Of course it doesn’t in any way shape or form, confirm nor deny the accusations against Russia; but that’s the issue. We have entered an economic war with one of the richest and most powerful countries on the planet, based solely on information that we the people are not privy to.

      I would be less surprised if the U.S.A. and E.U. were merely using these accusations as a pretext to political manipulation of Eastern Europe. A final opportunity to move the former Soviet-bloc countries further into their collective bosom.

      Reply
      • PatSinc

        Most of Eastern Europe is already in the EU and members of NATO. Consequently, the conspiracy you suggest is pointless. A conspiracy aiming to achieve nothing is not a conspiracy, it’s a figment of a paranoid imagination.
        It’s worth remembering that the USA has never used force to advance its agenda relating to Eastern Europe, whereas Russia relies and has always relied exclusively on force, corruption and coercion. Russian tanks have incontrovertibly been used to enforce Russia’s will in Ukraine, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, East Germany, Poland, Georgia, and Azerbaijan during peacetime. There is not one single instance of any Western or European nation behaving that way in Eastern Europe. The President of Russia has repeatedly publicly stated that he considers it a “catastrophe” that Russia gave up its prerogative to oppress, dominate, torture, murder and corrupt the citizens of Eastern Europe.

        Reply
      • Paul

        Yeah what an idiot, he goes on about Bellingcat, pretends to not have a horse in this race, and missing the most popular picture of a BUK during the parade.

        Good catch, what an asshat Jason is. Typical Russian troll master.

        Reply
      • Rob

        Yeah, and did you notice that they restrict their “trashing” of Bellingcat’s work to an authoritarian opinion regarding the use of ELA ?

        And note that that ELA expert, and Der Spiegel, completely ignore the UNDISPUTED Reference Analysis by Bellingcat that shows for a FACT that the Russian Defense Ministry misdated their A-1428 satellite pictures and thus lied about their relevance to MH17…

        Reply
        • Not Mark

          RT.com doesn’t even really go into how the dates the russian MOD presented were claimed here to be false. They only went on the attack of ELA. Maybe rt.com could present the whole story?

          Reply
  3. TrollHunter

    All of these posts reflect Russia’s disinformation tactic of crowding conversations with speculation to water down debate. Every post above casts doubt on what happened to flight MH-17 but provides no hard evidence to the contrary (or they attack the author directly).

    The trolls will say that ANY evidence provided by the West is fake/photoshopped/propaganda but what’s important is that the West’s position has never changed. The Russian/pro-Russian separatist story changes daily. First the separatists claimed to shoot down a Ukrainian troop transport, then they said it was Ukrainian’s attempting to shoot down Putin’s plane, then they said it was a Ukrainian fighter jet and sent out badly photoshopped “proof,” and so on. Now the story has come full circle. A Russian firm admits MH-17 was shot down by a BUK missile – http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-32972406

    Now it’s up to the trolls to make us believe that the BUK was operated by the Ukrainians and they will employ the same tactics above to do so.

    Reply
    • Jason

      That’s not true. Kiev’s stories have changed like voting in Chicago, early and often. They said their aircraft were getting shot down by Russian Migs, then they claimed it was Buks.

      It would help if the US didn’t automatically rubber stamp every conflicting statement made by the Ukrainian SBU. There seems to be more coherence and consistency now. But it was pretty wild back in the summer of 2014. The NATO military advisers have helped them get their act together.

      Reply
      • Not Mark

        Kiev’s position hasn’t changed regarding MH-17 the whole time. Almost immediately they claimed the rebels did this and they have stuck to this story the whole time. The same cannot be said about the “russian side”.

        Reply
      • Not Mark

        I do agree about Kiev’s military reports though. Kiev was claiming all sorts of wild things back then. I am glad NATO stepped in and showed them how professional militaries are run. It is really best to keep your mouth closed in such situations. Trying to sway public opinion seems to backfire often and you can get caught up in a web of lies. This leaves you in the situation russia finds itself in right now. They are sticking to their story that there is absolutely no russian involvement in Ukraine despite this being overwhelmingly untrue. At this point, out of pride or whatever, they seem to be pretty much stuck to this claim. I guess they would look too silly to come and admit to helping the rebels? Who knows…

        Reply
        • TriTro

          Professional militaries lie about their losses, claim they don’t fire rounds and most importantly claim there are no Americans in Iraqi International Airport? …Or something like that? Ukraine’s claims in this war have been as good as Russias, with the clear difference that they’re losing it…

          Reply
        • Rob

          We know for a fact that the Russian Defense Ministry were lying through their teeth in their July 21 press conference.

          But I am not aware of “all sorts of wild things” that Kiev was claiming at the time. Can you give a couple of examples ?

          Reply
          • Rob

            Not Mark, your comments here suggest that you are standing up against the biased opinions and outright lies from the vast number of Russian “apologists” that flood the Bellingcat comment section.

            But be careful when you admit to things (as a compromise ?) that may not be founded in verifiable facts.

            The fact is that so far, virtually all statements and virtually all disclosed evidence from Kiev in the MH17 case have been spot-on, are still standing after more than 10 months.

          • Not Mark

            Thank you for the tip Rob. I will be more careful about making such compromises. I didn’t want to come off as being absolutely blind to dissenting opinions. I should have said something like “Kiev *may have been* claiming all sorts of wild things back then.” I am not aware of any specific examples of such claims, however. Take care.

      • Rob

        Jason said “They said their aircraft were getting shot down by Russian Migs, then they claimed it was Buks.”

        Do you have a reference for that assertion ?
        Or are you making this up as you go along ?

        Reply
          • Not Mark

            Even if he is, does that change the validity of his points? It really makes no difference. He isn’t here spreading different lies and theories on a daily basis. He has only been defending the analysis provided here against the constant barrage of attacks by people like you.

          • Rob

            “Anonymous” said “Rob are u being paid by the SBU?”

            No. I’m Dutch and I don’t take s**t from Russia’s apologists on MH17.

          • Rob

            And when is Jason going to come up with a reference that supports his assertion that “They said their aircraft were getting shot down by Russian Migs, then they claimed it was Buks.” ?

  4. Philip Larkin

    so i now understand all of this is a waste of time because the missile makers were misquoted in the first place.

    they never said Russia didnt have those missiles.

    Reply
    • Not Mark

      Here is what The Moscow Times says:
      And I quote “Almaz-Antey at its press conference Tuesday concluded that an outdated missile, no longer used in Russia but widely sold abroad, was likely responsible for the plane’s destruction.”

      So now we have TWO different prominent English language, russia based news outlets mistranslating Almaz’s presentation? These guys need to find better translators if that is the case….

      http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/mh17-was-not-shot-down-by-russian-missile–russian-defense-firm/522938.html

      Reply
      • Philip Larkin

        The Moscow Times is Western owned troll fodder.

        Not to be taken seriously.

        Reply
        • Not Mark

          And what exactly is RT.com? That’s right, the kremlin’s anti-western propaganda mouthpiece. Why haven’t you addressed the evidence supporting the fact that this missile is still in russian inventories?

          Let me quote rt.com “Production of BUK-M1 missiles was discontinued in 1999, at the same time Russia passed all such missiles that were left to international clients,” the company said, adding that this missile type has not been supplied to the Russian Armed Forces since 1995, and none are currently deployed by Russia’s military.” http://rt.com/news/264421-buk-missile-manufacturer-investigation/

          Reply
          • Philip Larkin

            I dont read or cite RT.com.

            I uderstand it was them who made the translation error or misquote.

        • PatSinc

          That’s not true, is it? Because the Moscow Times is owned by a Russian, and edited by a Russian who is openly critical of Western journalism.
          It may be that from your perspective, any media source which is not directly and wholly controlled by the Kremlin is “Western owned troll fodder”, but that’s not an opinion that withstands an encounter with reality.

          Reply
  5. Chris

    Funny how each time anyone publishes anything implicating Russia it is immediately shred to pieces. It’s not just the content of each story but the combined interpretation of all the facts which include Russian news stating the separatists shot down a Ukrainian Cargo Plane minutes after MH17 was shot down or the facts about the satellite images aND troubling theories put fourth by Russia in the days after the event. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do a little digging into bellingcats stories, or anyone’s elses, and piecing it together yourself using other sources. I have found some interpretations to be just that but for the most part informative and factual as they present them…..

    Reply
    • Not Mark

      I agree. It might be easy to remain incredulous after reading only one of these Bellingcat investigations but when taken as a whole they should *AT LEAST* incite a tiny bit of doubt in any rational person. I think Bellingcat’s goal here is to just get people thinking. There is a VAST amount of information out there. Despite any government’s attempts to make up/distort the facts, average people like us can go and find out for ourselves. This is the information age gentleman/ladies. It is very hard to hide things from an ever more prying public. I think the sooner the corrupt governments of the world figure this out, the better it will be for everyone. Take care!

      Reply
    • Rob

      Chris said “Funny how each time anyone publishes anything implicating Russia it is immediately shred to pieces.”

      The truth that Bellingcat publishes is not shred to pieces each time, Chris.

      It is simply attacked with strawman arguments, Gish gallops and false assertions.
      Each one of which we can expose.

      Reply
  6. Jason

    Listen guys, you’ve got to stop labeling every person who questions a Bellingcat article a “Kremlin troll”.

    If someone raises and objection or cites a dissenting article, you don’t have to body slam them.

    People are trying to figure this stuff out. Help them.

    All this hostility and defensiveness is public relations disaster. People are alienated by the raw accusations and sometimes crude language here.

    Just respond rationally. Use logic. And keep it clear and simple. Let’s move this forward. J.

    Reply
    • Rob

      Jason said “Listen guys, you’ve got to stop labeling every person who questions a Bellingcat article a “Kremlin troll”.”

      Did you notice that only ONE guy mentions “Kremlin troll” on this comment page ?
      And that that guy is an internet entity called “Jason” ?

      Reply
  7. Jason

    Listen guys, you’ve got to stop labeling every person who questions a Bellingcat article a “Kremlin troll”.

    If someone raises and objection or cites a dissenting article, you don’t have to body slam them.

    People are trying to figure this stuff out. Help them.

    All this hostility and defensiveness is public relations disaster. People are alienated by the raw accusations and sometimes crude language here.

    Just respond rationally. Use logic. And keep it clear and simple. Let’s move this forward. J.

    Reply
    • Not Mark

      I agree Jason. Sometimes it is frustrating when trying to have an actual discussion with someone who is an actual troll and we get overzealous labeling legitimate commenters as such. Would you say it’s safe to label Joe Morton a “troll”? His comments are usually very lengthy, aggressive, insulting, and usually have nothing to do with the article above.

      Reply
  8. Fro5ty

    Why do I think that Joe is a new Russian OS with comment generating capability or Kremlin Troll? I just read his comment twice and still can’t get his point. Is he saying that bellingcat is complete crap because it’s western propaganda and he shouldn’t post anything on it but he keeps doing it anyway? The logical behavior for me would be, if I find the source of info rubbish, I don’t go there anymore, this is exactly the reason why I don’t post anything on RT website. Joe, on the other hand, his purpose is to support what Russian media states. Despite Russian media changing stories almost every month, Joe takes it as a new truth. So, the old truth is not true anymore? Then what makes him think that the new truth is in fact true?

    Reply
  9. spike

    this obvious spook disinformation site is embarrasingly obvious. A fraudulent waste of britoid tax payers money.

    Of course you will bloke this post but thats ok. Everyone can see you, as plain as daylight.

    You silly, silly spooks. When are you going to grow a pair and stop being america’s little bitch?

    Must do better MI.6 Your bull is simply too obvious.

    Obvious stooge is obvious.

    Reply
  10. Alex Liveson

    Not Mark , are you being paid here?
    Out of 101 comments 44 are yours , a little over enthusiastic I would say for a general follower of a blog.

    Reply
    • Not Mark

      Haha! You have a fair point here. Lets just say my line of work has me working very long hours 7 days a week in a hot, dry, and dusty place. I have literally nothing else to do for hours on end. Prior to a few days ago I had occupied this time watching random youtube videos or reading reddit. Then I found this website and became immediately obsessed with it. I saw what was taking place in the comments section here and decided that something had to be done about it. So now I spend those hours of my day scouring the comments and refuting the claims some of the people here make. I can spend hours looking for articles and pictures that further my views about these issues. Additionally, in several instances I have responded to other user’s comments that were subsequently deleted for violating rules of comment forum courtesy (swearing, being berating, etc) and my responses are left behind and out of context. I wish these now erroneous comments of mine would be deleted but I assume this is an arduous process as my comments are very pervasive. THOSE are the reasons my comments make up a sizeable portion of this area. I hope that answers your question.

      P.S. I wish I could be paid to write these comments because that would be some awesome extra beer money. 😛

      Reply

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