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The Lost Digit: Buk 3×2

May 3, 2016

By Bellingcat Investigation Team

Translations: Русский


Full report: (EN)  stock_save_pdf    (RU)  stock_save_pdf    (DE)  stock_save_pdf

In November 2014, Bellingcat published a report that identified the Buk TELAR (missile launcher) that downed Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 as “Buk 3×2,” originating from Russia’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade of Kursk. The Buk was called 3×2 due to an obscured middle digit, which was not identifiable at the time of the report’s publication.


Left: Paris Match photo Right: Buk 3×2 in June convoy


The missing digit

In a new report, we positively identify the middle digit of this Buk by matching seven characteristic features on Buk 3×2, including a unique dent on a side panel, the white marks on the chassis, and the cable arrangement connecting to the missile erector.

Features on Buk 3x2 that will be compared

Features on Buk 3×2 that will be compared

The middle digit is a three, thus identifying the number of the Buk that downed MH17 as “332” before the middle digit was obscured. In this new investigation, members of the Bellingcat investigation team collected and analyzed dozens of photographs of Buk TELARs that have been posted online by members of the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade since 2010.


Buk TELARs 312, 322, and 332

The full report gives details on the process in determining that these three TELARs were the only possible candidates for identification. After comparing the seven unique features, Buk 332 was the only TELAR that had even one of these features in common with Buk 3×2 from materials recorded in Russia in June 2014 and eastern Ukraine on July 17 and 18, 2014. The seven examined features were: side skirt profile, wheel type (combination of hollow wheels and spoke wheels), dent in the left side panel, arrangement of cable connections to the missile erector, white mark on both side skirts, font and exact spacing of digits, and the shape and size of oil/soot deposits by exhaust

The full report, downloadable here, provides a detailed analysis of each of these seven features. This summary will compare a few of the most conclusive features.

A high-quality photograph of Buk 3×2 taken in Alexeevka, Russia shows an inverted S-shape dent on the left panel.


Clear photographs were available of this same left panel for Buks 312, 322, and 332. A comparison of the three panels below shows that Buk 332 has the identical dent on the panel:

Comparisons of left panel dents on Buks 312, 322, and 332, along with 3x2

Comparisons of left panel dents on Buks 312, 322, and 332, along with 3×2

Another identifier for identifying the correct Buk is by studying the cable connections to the missile erector on the revolving turret. There are four cables on both the left and right side leading to the missile erector, providing us with eight cables to compare.


After studying a number of Buks, it becomes clear that there are different arrangements and lengths to the cables. In the following two figures, the cable connections of Buk 3×2 is compared to the ones of Buks 312, 322, and 332.


Here, on the right side, only Buk 332 shows a similarity to the cable arrangement of Buk 3×2. The blue-marked cable four is connected to the top plug on the turret chassis. Buk 312 and 322 show a different cabling, and cable four is connected to the bottom plug. Also, Buk 312, 322 and 332 show a distinct shape of the cabling, and only the shape of Buk 332 resembles that of the cabling of 3×2.


The comparison on the left side allows only a partial comparison. It is not possible to see the plugs on the turret chassis. However, Buk 332 shows the same distinct spread of the cabling in the middle that is also visible on 3×2.  Nothing comparable is visible on 312 or 322.

Taken individually, none of the seven identifying characteristics allows a definite identification. However, taken in sum, it becomes clear that Buk 332 is the only logical match for Buk 3×2.


Furthermore, comparing the features of Buk 3×2 in Russia and Buk 332 to the available materials of Buk 3×2 in Ukraine (called the “Separatist” Buk below) reveals that these three Buks are actually one in the same.

Many of these features, such as spoke wheels and the H-2200 mark, do not or very rarely appear on Ukrainian Buks. In particular, the Buk TELARs of Ukraine’s 156th Anti-Aircraft Regiment, which was based near Luhansk, Donetsk, and Mariupol in 2014, do not share any visible similarities among the compared characteristics with Buk 3×2, either in Russia or Ukraine. We can say with confidence that on 17 July 2014, the Russian Buk TELAR numbered 332 of the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade based in Kursk was filmed and photographed in eastern Ukraine. This specific Buk, previously identified as Buk 3×2, was filmed moving to the center of the launch area estimated by the Dutch Safety Board for the missile that downed MH17.


Credit should be given to various Russian-language online communities for helping to locate some of these materials and provide useful investigative leads. In particular, Bellingcat would like to recognize the efforts of the communities of and for their efforts and keen eyes, particularly regarding the discoveries of the dent in the left panel of Buk 332 and details relating to the road wheels of Buk TELARs.

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  1. John Zenwirt

    One has never seen a BC article that attracted this incredible numbers of USSR “commenters.”

    Obviously someone told them to be all over BC on this one….No doubt BC is known as a USSR ‘enemy”…on the list for attention…

    • Mx

      It is quite common for russian propaganda to adopt western-like nicknames and write in English . But we can figure them out easily.Sometimes bad English gives them away. In case their English is good what gives them away is their style.They deny all facts without providing their own.But what gives them away most of all is a stupid question like “Why didn’t Americans provide this or that..?” or something like that. or like to use very “meaningfull” statements like “Both are suspects in the downing of MH17, and cannot be trusted.”
      I’m myself not a native English speaker, In fact my native language is Russian, So I Know what I’m talking about .I just want to show everyone what kind of people we have to deal here with.

      • Sam

        We have to deal with that know the truth, but are willing to lie for money or national pride.

        If the want Russia to be a great country, they have to stop telling lies.

        Unfortunately under their paymasters, Russia will decline.

        • misterIOUS

          That’s for sure. But tell me,where is black boxes from plane? Who have them,russians or americans? And why we still don’t have information from them?
          Simple question,no?

          • Steven

            This is already known. They are with the AAIB in Farnborough, England. They are held by the British who are experts in recovering data from, they have supplied the information to the Dutch and the Dutch who are leading the investigation will decide what to make public as part of the criminal investigation.
            Its not difficult information to find

            In the meantime therr is a transcript of all communication with the crew and air traffic control commented on in the DSB report. I suggest you read it. Section 2.5.2.

            But then i doubt you’re interested in answers.

          • misterIOUS

            Who cares about transcript of all communication with the crew and air traffic control??
            We need full black boxes audio!!
            When pilots talking about SU-25. All sounds after missile explosion. You know,what i mean?
            When plane crashes in Alps,in next day,whole world can hear,how pilot breath in microphone,but for MH17 audio,we need wait for 3 years?
            And i can repeat question,who have black boxes? Allies of USA or russians?

          • Steven

            I just told you, the british have the black boxes, the evidence of which has been shared with the dsb and now forms part of the criminal investigation which will report later in the year.

          • stranger

            “criminal investigation which will report later in the year” are you sure it will be reported. I guessed they will keep the evidences until a court wherever it can be. Otherwise what prevented DSB from making public all available evidences?

          • Steven

            Their area of competence prevented it, which I believe we both know. Re Am I sure? I am sure as to what has been reported in regard to the publishing of it.

            The DSB report on the likely cause of the incident it is a civil matter. The criminal investigation is to find those who did it, a criminal matter.

            The scope of the investigation is wider for the Criminal investigation and, where they overlap and the area of competence is not the DSB’s that is stated in the report.

      • stranger

        I’ll tell you more. Sometimes I feel I’m able to distinguish Russians from Ukrainians by some specific mentality regardless of a perfect English.

          • stranger

            Yes, but they are saying ‘we are not Ukrainians’. But if you are persevering enough sooner or later you would guest according to the law of big numbers.

          • Steven

            I think i take your point. But then would you or i be different in their situation?

          • stranger

            Seriously, there are some subtle differences between typical Ukrainian and typical Russian way of thinking. Russians are more collective, Ukrainians are more individualists, with all the consequences, to say it in the most polite way. I’ve heard there is a difference between north and south Italians which seemed somewhat similar to me. Whatever

          • stranger

            “I think i take your point. But then would you or i be different in their situation?” I think I was not able to express my point clearly. That completely depends on a person. If somebody is honest from either side that deserves a respect, and vice verse.

      • stranger

        Look how the real troll factories work:

        “We did it by dividing into teams of three. One of us would be the “villain,” the person who disagrees with the forum and criticizes the authorities, in order to bring a feeling of authenticity to what we’re doing. The other two enter into a debate with him — “No, you’re not right; everything here is totally correct.”

        If you are looking for the organized troll team you should notice not only what people write, but how they interact with each others, right? Otherwise it is not a troll factory but just unrelated people expressing their opinion.

        What do we see at this forum? For example Greg is giving an argument like ‘the missile approached MH17 from the tail’. Several trolls immediately object, ‘read DSB report’, ‘how can you tell that’, ‘give a confirmation’.

        So what can we conclude? There is an interacting group of trolls. But from which side? Remember that the first person should give a contra-argument for others to debunk.

        So thanks to radio liberty we are able to identify an organized group of Ukrainian trolls at this forum. Is not it so?

        Nothing personal, sorry if something wrong.

        • Steven

          I dont thinkit workss like that here. The volumeo comments isnt high eno

          • stranger

            Is it an evening drink time for you? Cheers! You don’t seem to reside in the UK time zone. Are you really from Britain or is there own ‘New Wales’ in the States?

          • Steven

            I reside in London. Alas i dont drink, but i was on a train with piss poor reception which goes someway to explaining the posting of that mess above as the site kept dropping out.

            Actually given that Google are currently funding Bellingcat, any chance they can help out with at least a bit more functionality on the site? The comments section is pretty clunky.

  2. Sam

    Putin likes Trump and vice versa

    Sounds like Hitler and Stalin dividing up Europe in 1939 (not 1941)

    Trump says shoot down the Russian aggressive planes.

    Who wants a Cold War?

    You think Obama is a wimp? Ha

    Now Russia has to deal with Trump who is crazy like Putin.

    Welcome to WWIII

    Thanks Putin

  3. Russian

    Great work on this one guys! Too bad it came too late for the BBC documentary to be included.
    Overall I have to say the BBC did a pretty decent job and presented a pretty solid case, although they did leave some interesting stuff out.
    My main criticism of this peace (and the BBC in general) is that they mentioned the grip the Kremlin has over almost all Russian media only in passing, and as an opinion, and completely left out the background of some of the conspiracy bozos.

    For example, I think they did a disservice to their viewers when they made no mention of the fact that Ray McGovern (aside from making a fool of himself on TV) is a bona fide 9/11 truther, Hamas supporter, and a textbook conspiracy nut and champion of whatever the anti Western cause du jour happens to be in vogue among his ilk.

    Other paragons of truth include:

    Oleg Vitulkin – a “separatist” with some serious Soviet nostalgia (check his Odnoklassniki profile).
    Yana Oleshova – Reporter for the main Kremlin mouthpiece.
    Nekolay Varsegov (KP) – reporting on such top stories as aliens
    Sergei Sokolov – double facepalm…for those times when one is not enough…

    • John Zenwirt

      Surely it is not necessary for a criminal investigation to end, before the crucial black-box (CVR) and data recorder are made available to the public. It’s usually done, as investigations can take years.

      Always, in the past, the vital information is given to the public , and first the families one would think….but it’s odd they are not already released…

  4. Mr.Bushkin

    The lack of any butterfly-shaped perforations on the hull of MH17 contradicts the alleged usage of an 9M38M1 (Buk-M1) missile anyway.

    • Steven

      They dont leave butterfly shaped perforations, you tit, they aren’t cookie cutters. They are shrapnel.

      Is this all you have to add? Really?


      • Mr.Bushkin

        Quote: “Is this all you have to add? Really?”

        Are you the guy, who presented a video with An-26 hit by an infrared guided missile as MH17 yesterday?

        Why should I bother to correct somebody, who even lacks apropriate attitude?

        • Steven

          Yeah, that told me..::almaz and their amazing

          “Super computer device”

          From 30,000 feet it can be recreated just twelve feet off the floor.

          Nice to see you’re a fan of comedy.

          • misterIOUS

            Well,you or bellingcat can make your own experiment,and prove to world,that this one its not valid. :))
            For now,this one is all what we got.

          • Steven

            Bellingcat dont need to make/conduct the experiment. They arent trying to manufacture a lie.

        • Mr.Bushkin

          Starting with 4:22 you can even see plenty of butterfly-shaped perforations, which are completely absent on MH17.

          • Steven

            The dsb has stated it was downed by a buk. Almaz stated it was downed by a BUK.

            Here you go. Find an image any image of a blast mark at the location that the mod of russia identified of those ukranian buks.

            You know where to look. Show me evidence that they were fired. Scorch marks, anything. Bring it back we will chat.

    • boggled

      Hard for me to tell with the shadow of grab handle from above.
      The damage to right (332) is hard to see on left 3×2 image
      Which does not mean its there.
      Just cannot tell due to focus and shadows.
      My opinion only though.
      Nice observation.

      Fare thee well

  5. Greg Rabinovich

    I have watched the BBC’s “Conspiracy Files: Who shot down MH17?” on YouTube and read a companion artcle in the BBC Magazine. The video is chockful of rank belligncat evidence, a.k.a. BS. For instance:

    “The route ends in the corner of a large field, about 15 miles (25km) south-east of where MH17 was hit and about a mile east of the village of Red October – a field right in the middle of the area identified by the Dutch report (WOW! What are the odds?) as the likely launch location. The pro-Russian rebels controlled this whole area. What’s more, launching a Buk missile generates searing temperatures and one photograph taken in the same field a few days after the crash, shows a small patch of burnt grass.”

    Of course, anyone equipped with a can of gasoline and a cigarette lighter could manufacture a Buk launch area in a jiffy. That is, except for Buk track marks. How did a Buk missile launcher weighing 34 tonns manage to get in and out of a field without leaving any track marks behind?

    If anything, the burnt out area is evidence that someone tried to manufacture MH17 evidence inside a rebel-controlled territory. Which scenario do you think is more likely: a) the rebels did it to implicate themselves in mass murder or b) Ukraine shot down MH17 and tried to implicate the rebels?

    • Steven

      Greg. The rebels vehemently denied ever even having a BUK missile launcher. Dmitty Peskov declined to comment on the shooting down of an AN26 just prior as nonsense clearly stating that the rebels had no such capability. No BUK whatsoever.

      Why then would the Ukraine shoot down a plane using a weapon that no one knew the rebels had in order to frame them? For that to be true it must be the case that the rebels had lied about having a BUK in the first place, otherwise this whole dastardly act would be doomed from the outset.

      Also Greg, given that the Russian Mod has published photos which show the location of the ukranian BUKs that you think did this, why have you or they not been able to provide photos of the burn marks at these locations that would have been generated when the Ukranians fired their missile? Given that they and you know exactly where to look to find them?

      Take your time.

      • Greg Rabinovich

        “The rebels vehemently denied ever even having a BUK missile” BZZZT… .

        “At the end of June, the Russian state media had congratulated the rebels on their latest military acquisition – a set of Russian-made BUK missile launchers seized from a Ukrainian air force base. “The Donetsk resistance fighters have captured an anti-aircraft military station,” declared the Kremlin’s main television network Vesti, which has been cheering on the rebel fighters since the war in eastern Ukraine began this spring. “The skies above Donetsk will now be protected by the BUK surface-to-air missile complex,” said the headline on the channel’s website.”

        • Steven

          So Greg, now that we know, thanks to you that antony borodai clearly lied and that the rebels had a BUK and were thus capable of downing MH17.

          Lets turn our attention to the next bit where are the big burn marks on the floor where those Ukranian BUKs were?

          Got any photos of that yet? The russians don’t, seemingly. Strange because almaz seems so certain as to where it came from. So seeing as you havd uncovered one pro russian lie today, why dont you have a go at this one champ?

          See if you had that you might have something compelling behind the story that ukraine fired at MH17.

          Without that, all you have is a story.

        • oui oui

          the same here : , with in conclusion how a russian buk or a tank or anything could go from Russia to Ukraine
          the separatist , who don’t want to be separated , didn’t lie there , it was a russian buk with a russian crew
          before every changing the game delivery like that there was such news of a capture in the russian media , for the internal market , answers before questions , quiet quiet

      • Greg Rabinovich

        Who do you believe, bellingcat or your lyin’ eyes? Where are Buk track marks on the purported missile launch area photo?

        Ron Olifant in his original Telegraph piece tried to address the issue of missing marks: “To add to the difficulties, experts approached by the Telegraph said a Buk launcher is a relatively light piece of kit. So any telltale track marks are unlikely to be particularly distinguishable.”

        So here you have it. A 34 ton Buk is “a relatively light piece of kit” that leaves track marks only visible from a satellite. If you believes that, I have a bridge I would like to sell you.

        • Steven

          Greg just because you don’t like the evidence, doesn’t mean its not evidence. Whats more, given that you clearly know what you are looking for, tracks blast marks etc and the Russian MOD has given you the whereabouts of these BUK missiles that the Ukraine has, why don’t you find some satellite photos that back up your theory that the Ukraine apparently framed the Pro Russian/Russians, should be easy to see? Hmm big burnt patches of floor…

          Of course, there is that sticky point that, once again, they tried to frame them by apparently using a weapon that no one knew the Rebels had.

          So which is it Greg, were the rebels and Russians lying about them never having a BUK and the Ukraine framed them by firing their own?

          Or were the “rebels” responsible for firing it? And are lying about that.

          Its a dilemma isn’t it Greg, seems, whichever way you slice it the “rebels” were lying.

        • boggled

          It was raining the day of MH17 and days after.
          It would have eliminated or made less distinguishable the tracks of the BUK
          from some wheeled vehicle by the time any one got there to inspect them.

          Fare thee well

  6. John Zenwirt

    UK Express news-paper:

    “Experts say the deadly weapon was fired from Putin’s anti-aircraft brigade before hitting the doomed plane, killing all 298 people onboard.”

    “A team of journalists from Bellingcat have analysed reams of footage from rebel-held Ukrainian territory from the day the jet crashed and claim they have evidence of Russian involvement.”

  7. Andry

    A serious investigation, not leaving home) Do not be surprised if шт these pictures will eventually be identified the one who pressed the button, also on “the unique coincidence”

    • Steven

      Sorry, i know you are writing in your second (possibly third) language and are doing your best and while you should be praised for your effort, i am nonetheless wondering…What?

    • Steven

      I think i know what you mean, that eventually the guy who hit the button will be caught?

      Thats what i take and again, i mean no offence, your english far exceeds my grasp of any other language, it us to your credit not mine

  8. Greg Rabinovich

    I have good news and bad news for bellingcat.
    The good news is that there exists another video of a notorious Buk 332 filmed in the vicinity of Donetsk:
    The bad news is that the video was posted to YouTube in March, 2014 indicating that the Buk is Ukrainian:).

    • Mx

      To Greg Rabinovich

      It seems you really enjoy looking like a moron. Mr,Putin is not afraid of looking like a moron either ) . It seems in Russia they have a competition and try hard in determining the moron of the year.The winner takes it all-becomes the president of all Russian morons. Greg Rabinovich has good chances but I think he being a gentleman will let Mr,Putin win again )
      Nevetheless. I’ll try to ask you a question. Have you read bellincat’s investigations at all? It seems your only mission here is not to read but to write as much bullshit as possible.

      • Greg Rabinovich

        “When you resort to attacking the messenger and not the message, you have lost the debate.” –Addison Whithecomb

        • Steven

          There is beauty in truth, even if it’s painful. Those who lie, twist life so that it looks tasty to the lazy, brilliant to the ignorant, and powerful to the weak. But lies only strengthen our defects. They don’t teach anything, help anything, fix anything or cure anything. Nor do they develop one’s character, one’s mind, one’s heart or one’s soul.

          Jose N Harris

  9. The rat

    The plane in the video is an Antonov An-30 shot down by SA-7 missile. 2014-06-06- You can find it at Youtube


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