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New July 17th Satellite Imagery Confirms Russia Produced Fake MH17 Evidence

June 12, 2015

By Eliot Higgins

In Bellingcat’s 31 May 2015 report, Forensic Analysis of Satellite Images Released by the Russian Ministry of Defense, the Bellingcat investigation highlighted a number of discrepancies between the satellite images presented by the Russian Ministry of Defense and Google Earth satellite imagery from 2 July 2014 and 21 July 2014. Thanks to donations by Bellingcat readers it has now been possible to purchase satellite imagery from Digital Globe dated 17 July 2014 and collected at 11:08 a.m. local time of one of the sites shown in the Russian Ministry of Defense imagery.

17 July 2014 Digital Globe imagery versus MoD imagery dated 17 July 2014; note the missing Buk in the MoD imagery:

This is the first known purchase of 17 July 2014 satellite map imagery from this location, and comparison between the Digital Globe imagery and imagery Russian Ministry of Defense imagery shows there are clear discrepancies between the imagery. In addition to those discrepancies there are also clear similarities between the Russian Ministry of Defense imagery and the Google Earth historical satellite imagery from May and June 2014, which are not present in the July Google Earth and Digital Globe imagery. This clearly demonstrates that the imagery presented by the Russian Ministry of Defense is from before July 2014, confirming they produced false satellite imagery at their 21 July 2014 press conference on the downing of Flight MH17.

The full report can be read here, and is also available in Russian and German.

Below are interactive comparisons between the Russian Ministry of Defense imagery and the Digital Globe 17 July 2014 imagery.

17 July 2014 Digital Globe imagery versus MoD imagery dated 14 July 2014; note the changes in terrain, vegetation, and vehicles:

17 July 2014 Digital Globe imagery versus MoD imagery dated 17 July 2014; note the changes in the terrain:

17 July 2014 Digital Globe imagery versus MoD imagery dated 14 July 2014; note the changes in vegetation:
17 July 2014 Digital Globe imagery versus MoD imagery dated 14 July 2014; note the changes in the field:
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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187 Comments

  1. Brendan

    The new satellite image doesn’t seem to add anything new to what we’ve already seen in the images on Google Earth. The whole argument depends on whether you believe the dates provided by the Russians or those provided by the Americans.

    The only thing I’m curious about is why the original image and its full metadata file don’t appear to be available to download on this website. Bellingcat prides itself on carrying out open source investigation.

    Reply
    • Philip Larkin

      i believe they wouldnt be able to do that for copyright reasons.

      however i would have expected far better quality images taken from that DG image than the scrappy low resolution ones displayed here.

      Reply
  2. Philip Larkin

    Not Mark wrote:
    If I walked out into the field behind my house in the “Wild West” days and found a person who had been shot to death does that automatically mean I was the one who did it just because I have a gun in my house?

    It means you’re a suspect and we have to examine your gun and your movements that day.

    Reply
    • Not Mark

      Are the Ukrainians no longer suspects? It might appear that way when you only observe “western public opinion” but I would say there is nothing that points to the Ukrainians being officially cleared of any wrongdoing here. There are two main possibilities here. Either the Ukrainian military shot this thing down or the rebels shot this thing down. The overwhelming amount of information I have collected about this event (and my own personal bias) points me towards who I think is guilty, but that doesn’t much matter. What matters is who the organization that has been entrusted to make that decision thinks is guilty. I very much think this will turn out to be another “OJ Simpson Trial” sort of deal. One group thought he was definitely guilty and the other didn’t, despite all the circumstantial evidence surrounding the case. In the end, the verdict was only surprising to one of those groups. I don’t think I will be in the surprised group this time…

      Reply
      • It is I

        You forgot the 3rd option: Russian military shot it down.

        Rebels had no Buks, neither the capability to operate them.

        Reply
        • boggled

          It is I, not to argue or anything just to state my humble observations, the rebels informed the world on various social media platforms they had captured BUK launchers prior to the downing of MH17.
          A Russian BUK technician even made a post about him and his team travelling there to Ukraine and repairing them because when Ukraine vacated the bases, that the BUKs were stored at, they sabotaged them.
          I heard through the grapevine that they did not have enough time to repair and get those running before July 17th though.
          Which makes Russian troops the most likely suspect, your right.
          And specifically the ones identified in Bellingcat’s and other journalist’s individual and cooperative investigations, the 53rd.
          Since the BUK is a platform that has been around, I am sure some veterans of the Chechen wars and even back to the Afghanistan wars had been trained on the platform at the time of those wars.
          And we know Russian veterans are flooding Ukraine’s borders to go on safari and become Soldiers of Fortune.
          A majority of those fighting inside Eastern Ukraine are Russian’s on safari.

          Yes, the systems have been updated and certain modifications to them were made.
          Could they know how to operate every bit of the software and modifications such as Friend or Foe testing of targets?
          Probably not, but if they had launcher access codes, I think they knew where the red button that says launch is.

          Your right, it could have very likely been the Russian military, and in my opinion it most likely was due to the capability and repair issue, but the possibility of the rebels doing it is there also.
          Unlikely, but possible.

          Fare thee well

          Reply
        • Not Mark

          It is I, you are correct. I wanted to keep it simple and for that I took rebels to equal the russians.

          Reply
  3. tourist

    Question: Why not buying a photo from 17th July 2014 of BUK potential launch site near Snizhne from Digital Globe? Maybe the vehicle can be seen on the photo? Maybe also buy the 16th and 18th July photo to compare to see traces if the BUK vehicles and burned field afterwards.

    Reply
    • boggled

      It is a good question.
      It is one to be asked of all the media companies that have 100 million a year advertising budgets, satellite images are not cheap and Bellingcat and its authors are not media moguls.
      I am guessing myself that they may have done that, then various “Western Government” sources demanded or requested that they be kept classified for now in the name of national security and to allow Uncle Vova a face saving way out of this mess until the official report comes out or the court case.
      Kind of in the name of avoiding Uncle Vova suddenly going ballistic with all those various radioactive items he has at his disposal.
      Just my guess, but a logical guess.

      Reply
    • Andrew

      If the DG satellite passes overhead around noon on July 17, it would not capture a BUK being deployed after 2p in Snizhne, would it?

      It woudl be more interesting if it could be actually seen on the road.

      Reply
    • It is I

      There is no 17th July photo of launch site, at least not available at DigitalGlobe.

      There is a shot from 16th July, 18th and 19th are useless due to cloud cover. Then there are 20th (B&W) and 21th July.

      Reply
  4. leonard

    I can’t seem to find this reported in mainstream media.Usually the media has been very keen to take up Bellingcat reports, as they are reliably in line with the favoured narrative.
    This “new” report seems to be once more about timing, but nothing new is gained from that, time dates don’t seem to be accurate.So?Are the US times to be considered any more accurate than the Russian?
    So many defensive and shrill gatekeepers on this site

    Reply
  5. Andrew

    Just curious, if you look on Sat.24, you can see it was at least partially cloudy over Donetsk between 10a and 12n on 7/17/14.

    So how was Digitial Globe’s image able to be captured completely cloud free at this time?

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • boggled

      Luck? the satellite sensors look for breaks in the clouds? they keep the aperture of the lens open for a while and then super impose the data?
      Your asking for a lot of technical spec of the DG satellite I imagine and an explanation that would only be acceptable to you from a representative from their company, I am guessing.
      Maybe you using their ‘contact us’ form would get a response, and you could share the answer?

      Fare thee well

      Reply
  6. Jan Peknik

    I’ve checked according to you article, by the way, and DigitalGloba does not have photo of this location from 17.7.2014. Where did you get that photo from?

    Reply
    • bellingcatadmin

      Did you make sure you changed the search options to include the widest range of cloud cover and angles? The ID for the image is 105041001104D000

      Reply
      • Jan Peknik

        Why is there digital globe logo at the bottom of yours little low-res image?
        – if you have bought original hi-res from DigitalGlobe, there would certainly not be logo on that place
        – if you make that small image yourself, why did you add DigitalGlobe logo?

        Reply
        • Not Mark

          Jan, Bellingcat will have to answer for sure but I am fairly certain the watermarks are present because of copyright or licensing reasons. Just because they bought the rights to the image does not mean they get to use it however they like and I imagine putting the Digital Globe watermark on the image was a precondition to publically publishing the photo. Maybe not, but that is my thought.

          Reply
      • Jan Peknik

        About image 105041001104D000 – how did you find it, if I may ask? I’ve tried to use your metod but even if all filters are to max, there is no 17/7/2014 in the listing. Yet there is catalogue image 105041001104D000, only it cannot be find in listings. I’m asking because in this article, there is no single piece of evidence about image origin, except your claims… just trying to make thing clear.

        Reply
        • Not Mark

          Jan, here are the specifications for that image:
          Catalog ID: 105041001104D000 Acq Date: Jul 17, 2014 Center Lat/Long: 48.005°/37.813° Avg Off Nadir Angle: 44° Avg Target Azimuth: 239° Spacecraft: GE01 Band Info: Pan_MS1

          I was able to find it by maxing out the options in the filters. This is at a high Nadir angle so maybe you didn’t have that filter set high enough?

          Search Filters:
          Acquisition Date: 9/29/99 – 6/16/15
          Off Nadir Angle: 0.0 – 45.0 degrees
          Cloud Cover: 0 – 100 %

          Reply
  7. stephen porter

    All but one of the photos are exactly as they should be!

    The difference in perspective would account for all the variations in the images. The field looks exactly the same considering the quality and hue, and it is possible that even the trees are blurred out in the Russian MOD shots.

    Reply
    • bellingcatadmin

      I told the presenter on Twitter “I don’t do appearances on Russian government owned propaganda channels”, which she edited down and RT’d to “I don’t do propaganda”. When the selective editing starts before you’re even on the show…..

      Reply
  8. Micheal S.

    As a certified GIS specialist, as well as a remote sensing systems engineer with several spacecraft and space probe projects, including Mars Viking 1 &2, this is not very compelling evidence. For one thing, the vegetation will look very different depending of the wavelength of the image capture as well as RGB/IR calibration. Bellingcat seems to not understand that they are simply trying to convince us of faces on Mars. This is not enough to prove anything. What they are trying to do is say “look here, see it ..see it, right there..! But they apparently do not have trained analysts that can extrapolate data and advise them that this is not enough.

    Reply
    • boggled

      With all due respect to the person with the ACTUAL reported expertise you mentioned and yes, you actually did make a correct analysis of the face on Mars,

      HOWEVER, your interpretation of the Russian MoD’s images is false as their presentation.

      As far as your stated CV, there may be an actual person with it, but you stating it does not prove you have that experience, and if there is an actual person with that CV you cannot prove the person with that expertise is the same actual one who made the comment by Micheal S.
      Statements of experience to prove your right, hold little weight in comment boards.
      They may hold weight if your at an actual presentation at a university holding some symposium, but stating your expertise on a comment board does NOT make it true or provable or your comment truth.
      I could make the claim I am the Dali Lama, but you would never accept that on a comment board, no one would.

      Simple fact is your analysis would be correct if it affected the other groves of trees in the Russian MoD’s images, it does not.
      They are clearly shown with detail down to branches.
      You cannot blame it on wavelength and calibration for a solitary grove of trees in the images being blurred or missing while EVERY other 50 to 70 feet tall trees are clearly shown.
      And yes, the grove of trees was removed about 3 weeks prior to July 17th.
      The Russian MoD’s images are falsifications.

      Godzilla facepalm

      A two year old child can see the differences and facts, and you sir are either in denial, a Kremlin propagandist who feels the need to proclaim your some kind of expert and need to be believed, or someone who needs to see an optometrist.
      Which is it?

      Fare thee well

      Reply

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