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Does Ukraine Have 9M38M1 Missiles?

June 4, 2015

By Nathan Patin

Earlier this week, Russian arms manufacturer Almaz-Antey presented its analysis of the downing of MH17 in an attempt to prove its “non-involvement in the MH17 tragedy.” The company concluded that while MH17 was downed by a 9M38M1 missile fired by a Buk M1, that particular type of missile has not been used by Russian forces since 1999. Bellingcat has since shown that, despite the Russian firm’s claims to the contrary, the 9M38M1 missile is still used by Russia, as seen in pictures as recent as March of this year.

Russian arms manufacturers and the Russian MoD don’t hold a monopoly on falsehoods and dubious claims, however. On June 4, Interfax quoted Ihor Smeshko, an advisor to the Ukrainian president and former head of the SBU as saying, “As far as I know, Ukraine sold its last Buk to Georgia.” Presumably, he was referring not to the Buk M1 missile system, but rather the 9M38M1 missile in response to claims that it may have been stolen from a Ukrainian military warehouse seized by rebels. According to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, Georgia received 48 Buk missiles from Ukraine in 2007, along with a Buk M1.

Unfortunately for Mr. Smeshko, a number of videos and pictures of Ukrainian Buks have been uploaded to social media since 2007, more than a few of which can be seen armed with 9M38M1 missiles. The 9M38M1 can be easily distinguished from other Buk missiles by its long fins:

A cellphone video uploaded March 5, 2014, shows a convoy of Buks and other Ukrainian military vehicles parked along the side of a road. Four Buks (numbered  321, 312, 331, and 332, respectively) can be seen with 9M38M1 missiles.

A video uploaded on May 8, 2014 shows a Ukrainian Buk numbered 121 being hauled by a trailer. Despite the video’s title, we geolocated this video not in Kramatorsk, but the nearby city of Krasnoarmiisk.

On July 16, 2014, a day before the downing of MH17, the Ukrainian Army released a video touting its “anti-terrorism operations” in eastern Ukraine. Halfway through the video, a Buk can be seen armed with missiles displaying the long, telltale fins of the 9M38M1.

A photograph of Ukrainian Buk 312 was uploaded to VK by a Ukrainian soldier on August 17, 2014. Again, the 9M38M1 missiles are clearly visible.

We could go on; this is just a sampling of the open source evidence confirming that Ukraine — like Russia — still employs 9M38M1 missiles on its Buk missile systems. That being said, Mr. Smeshko’s erroneous remarks only serve to distract from the real issue — and the real evidence — of who is responsible for shooting down MH17.

Nathan Patin

Nathan Patin is a Washington, D.C.-based independent researcher and private investigator at the Mintz Group, an international corporate investigations firm. He focuses on open-source investigation tools and techniques, cybercrime, and the Middle East. He has been a member of the Bellingcat Investigation Team since 2015, and he was a guest presenter at Bellingcat's 2018 and 2019 Washington D.C. workshops.

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  1. boggled

    After browsing for a little news, I thought I would share both these article.
    I am sure some of these might be common news sources for some people, but still some relevant issues discussed.
    A discussion with the some of the residents of the area Almaz-Antey alleged in their discussion panel. With various links to other discussions.

    One article linked to discusses the smoke plume with satellite images done days after MH17’s destruction.
    And it does discuss a little about the Ukrainian BUKs.
    Anyways, this satellite images are just a reminder that they are out there and some others did some analysis that may substantiate some internet sleuths claims or challenge them. Just a small reminder of some of the history.
    This site although is slanted as proUkraine, it does have a lot of evidence and news related to Ukraine and its twitter feed collection can be a good source of current events in and around Ukraine.
    Fare thee well

    And not to take away from Bellingcat’s traffic, just to give some added evidence source collection and a place that attempts to collect overall the data relating to MH17.

  2. boggled

    And an article relating to ‘what we know’ now can be found searching for the phrase

    UPDATED Evidence Review: Who Shot Down Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17?

    A good collection of the overall data so far that is in the public domain.

  3. boggled

    and finally a similar or translation and analysis of the report done by novayagazeta, search for

    ‘There Was No Buk in Our Field’

    • Andrew

      “There Was No Buk in Our Field”

      That was a pretty worthless article. A bunch of people are quoted that they saw and heard all manner of things that they really couldn’t describe.

      As to maps of control by Ukraine the rebels, they are all pretty much worthless unless they show the location of checkpoints on the roads. There is no frontline with trenches or demarcated line of control. There are small manned strongpoints on the roads and rebel rapid reaction forces from interior bases that can be deployed to locations of battle via the parts of the road network controlled by checkpoints. The notion of rebel “control” of this area was clearly disproven by the rapid armored thrust of Ukrainian forces into Shakhtersk about 1 week after the MH17 shootdown. The order of battle on the Ukrainian side is similar – roadblock checkpoints and battalion size deployments of troops into battle from rear bases, occasionally combined into full brigade sized formations. In reality at the time, the area was a no-man’s land between the rebel checkpoints on the H21 road through Zhures, Shakhtersk, Torez and Snizhne, and the Ukrainian rear base at Amvrosiivka supporting the southern border thrust. This rear base was only lost at the end of August.

    • boggled

      Thanks Jason for the criticism along with the sarcasm.
      I just posted because people may not have seen it before so it may be ‘new’ for them, that is, the collection of data that is there.
      Evidence doesn’t change a whole lot, analysis does.
      But every once in a while a relevant fact may get forgotten.

      Others may have seen other compositions of data from various sources such as Correctiv’s or Nemtsov’s reports as well as reading Bellingcat’s site or the MH17 twitter feed.
      This article might contain some relative evidence that might have flown under the radar for some people.
      I said it was a good collection of data, not the only the best.
      Thank you for your critique of my comment and article presented.

      Fare thee well

  4. boggled

    I am sure everyone may have been to this article, but it is a good source to be reminded of what is known over all, and for review.
    Search for – Is this the track of the BUK which shot down MH17

    Another photo I got from reading comments somewhere else which you might not have in your collection can be found at

    which is a BUK launcher driving through Snizhne under its own power, If I remember reading the comment correctly.

    • muchandr

      It is a TEL 133, it cannot shoot anything on its own without same kind of radar vehicle nearby. The full list vehicles of 156th Ukranian regiment

      see link to lostarmor claiming this vehicle and another TEL completely destroyed at Avdeevka.

      There is a video from 20th claiming 100, 101, 111, 112, 121, 122, 123, 131

      Despite having one last TEL (123) for reloads they seem to have expended all the missiles. 100 and 101 are command and radar vehicles respectively, much improving chances of a hit.

  5. Deus Abscondis

    A point of clarification.

    In Almaz Antey’s first press conference it was stated the 9M38M1 went out of production in 1999 (
    This was repeated ~1:02:35 except the translator or speaker misspoke and said “use”. From the context it is clear the missiles have 20 years before end of life unless a contract is made to extend the life of the missile presumably through perhaps new warheads being fitted and probably other perishable parts being replaced or serviced.

    Almaz Antey stated that Ukraine did not carry through with end of life extension contract in 2005. As an arms manufacturer and refurbisher of weapons it is not inconceivable Ukraine may have refurbished the missiles themselves. If they didn’t there is the risk of mis-detonation.

    Similarly, Russia may have persued the option to extended the life of it’s 9M38M1’s. However, as the 9M317 was introduced in 1998 along with the 9K37M1-2, it would seem odd that that the 9M38M1’s weren’t progressively replaced with the 9M317’s, perhaps with life extension of some 9M38M1’s. I haven’t found a reliable source for numbers in stockpiles or in use. Is there such a source?

    I look forward to seeing a correction.


  6. Deus Abscondis


    are you going to correct this claim or not? You stated:

    “The company concluded that while MH17 was downed by a 9M38M1 missile fired by a Buk M1, that particular type of missile has not been used by Russian forces since 1999.”

    My reasoning is set out in my comment

    It’s well overdue that this misinformation was put to bed, unless you wish to claim that Russia sold it’s entire arsenal of 9M38M1 missiles at the end of the production period in 1999? Clearly it was the 9M38 missiles that were retired.

    If you are going to hold Almaz Antey to a mistranslation or misspeaking, then would you also hold them to the velocity of the missile being “1000km/h” as was also stated by the translator? Is it not clear that was meant to be 1000m/s?

    On my part I believe that the lifespan of the missiles may be 25 years not the 20 years I stated.

    Is it not Bellingcat’s policy to correct clear errors?


  7. Виктор Захаров

    ..independent researcher based in the Washington.. It could be possible in US? In US where all dependent? Bellingcat disputes that rebels captured a Ukrainian Buk. It’s written in Wikipedia. You could easily said that martians captured Ukrainian Buk. You don’t know one simple thing to use Buk you need trained crew! For this reason MH17 shot down Ukrainian military….


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