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MH17 – The Open Source Investigation, Two Years Later

July 15, 2016

By Bellingcat Investigation Team

Translations: Русский

Today Bellingcat releases its latest report, “MH17 – The Open Source Investigation, Two Years Later”, bringing together two years of research by Bellingcat into the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014. As part of this release Bellingcat communicated with experts in various fields for their analysis and opinions of MH17 related evidence.

Of particular interest is the work of The James Martin Center for Non-Proliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. The Center used the forensic image analysis software Tungstene to examine various images related to MH17, including photographs of smoke believed to be from the missile launch, images of the Buk missile launcher travelling through separatist territory on July 17, 2014, and satellite images presented by the Russian Defence Ministry on July 21, 2014. These are the significant findings from this analysis:

  • Images showing the Buk missile launcher and what is believed to be smoke from the launch of a Buk missile show no signs of digital alteration,
  • Satellite imagery presented by the Russian Defence Ministry of July 21, 2014 was “so heavily manipulated that it lacks any credibility as evidence.”
  • The quality of the satellite images that Russia released is poor and appear altered. Therefore they recommend Russia should release the originals to the Joint Investigation Team.

Additional expert analysis and Bellingcat’s own analysis shows further evidence that the satellite imagery presented by the Russian Defence Ministry on July 21, 2014 were a clear attempt to present fake evidence to the world in the case of MH17.

Based on Bellingcat’s online open source investigation we believe the following events occurred:

  • Between June 23-25 2014 the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade transported vehicles within Russia to positions close to the Russian border with Ukraine. This includes Buk 332, later sighted in Ukraine on July 17 and 18 2014.
  •  On July 17 2014 Buk 332 left Donetsk in the morning loaded onto a low-loader, travelling eastwards through separatist held territory, until it reached the town of Snizhe in the early afternoon.
  • After arriving in Snizhne Buk 332 unloaded and drove under its own town south out of the town.
  • Buk 332 arrived at a field south of Snizhne and fired a missile that resulted in the destruction of Flight MH17.
  • Buk 332 was next filmed travelling east through the separatist controlled city of Luhansk on the morning of July 18 2014.
  • On July 21 2014 the Russian Defence Ministry presented a series of false and fake information. This included lying about the flight path of MH17, lying about radar data, lying about the location of the July 18 2014 Luhansk video, and misdating and heavily manipulating satellite imagery,
  • Almaz-Antey presented data that was not reflected by witness statements on the ground, or any open source information.
  • The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was only able present plagiarized blog posts when asked to present their evidence on the fate of MH17.

The full version of the report in English is available here, and available in Russian here.

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  1. stranger

    Look what a nice article on the analysis and classification of trolls and their impact, at the example of Latvia. Sorry, but not completely offtop, i believe it is somewhat relevant, taking into account the mutual accusation in trolling at this forum 🙂
    This site is dedicated to the official NAT0 information strategy. Especially interesting is page 77 where they explain how to spot and deal with a ‘hybrid troll’ which is contrasted to a ‘classic troll’:

    This site also contains many other curious (fancy) articles.
    First of all, mentioning nationality, only ‘Russian-trolls’, in the article is insulting and absolutely inappropriate. There is a simple old word for that, that is called – racism. Replace ‘Russian’ with any the other nationality there and see how long such site would survive. They are saying that there are definitely non-Russian trolls also, but they focus on Russian ones for the purposes of the article.
    But whatever, regardless of that, there are some rational ideas and curious analysis. The conclusion is optimistic, that ‘hybrid trolling’ is no more than 4% and that trolling as phenomenon is not very effective. There are some other curious considerations worth to see. Recognize yourself 🙂

    • Frank

      What is to discuss, it is a well known proven fact that russian government set up som of these troll factory’s… with a reason… not a very ethical honest reason.

      • stranger

        Which 3 bullets, you mean at the diagram at the p77?

        I believe there are russian troll factories. I am almost sure. I remember the young guys with shining eyes from Russian pro government organizations such as Molodaya Gvardia, Nashi, etc, who seemed not completely honest to me. How was I surprised in many years to find similar young guys from other countries writing in the other language but with the same passion and self confidence and also not always honest.

        Though not everybody who defend Russia is a troll. Recently starting from just the pressure to Putin and his closest circle, it is eventually turning into a weird anti Russian campaign, including the recent olimpics story. At least so I perceive it.

        On the other hand there are trolls from whatever anti Russian side. That StratCom, created in Riga after Maydan and later affiliated with NAT0, not a troll factory I hope, but the center which deals exactly with the same – propaganda and counter propaganda with regards to geo strategic purposes and warfare. Do they support ‘right side’ journalists with grants or employ trolls, who knows.

        I also believe that trolls are basically harmless, should be harmless for rational thinkers, because it is up to a person to read, compare, validate the claims. So I’m for example ok to discuss any topic from any prospective pro and con Russia provided it is a rational discussion. I’m just very disturbed by manipulations and dishonesty. When some of articles at that StratCom for example from military phychological operation (!) author say ‘we are fighting to win’ – I hate it. You want to fight? You be ready to get a fight back. Just by the 3rd Newton’s law, if you remember the school’s physics. There are other articles there which are definitely against Russia, also because it is Latvia, but more rational and make sense.

        So not so sad

        • John Zenwirt

          Don’t take Stratfor too seriously, I think. They have a directed POV….Like they are a new NATO or something…

          • stranger

            But that is not Stratfor, that is StratCom – Strategic Communications officially the subdivision of NAT0, including several countries like Latvia, Germany, Italy etc and based in Latvia, Riga. That are official information forces of NAT0 afaiu, and rather serious. The are detaching from reality some times, but the other times are killingly cynical and precise.

          • stranger

            John, from the FAQ at:

            “What is Strategic Communications?

            There are many definitions that define Strategic Communications. Current NAT0 approved definition of Strategic Communications says that Strategic Communication is the coordinated and appropriate use of NAT0 communications activities and capabilities – Public Diplomacy, Public Affairs, Military Public Affairs, Information Operations and Psychological Operations, as appropriate – in support of Alliance policies, operations and activities, and in order to advance NAT0’s aims”

            In the About section they describe it further:
            “- Information Operations: NAT0 military advice and co-ordination of military information activities in order to create desired effects on the will, understanding, and capabilities of ADVERSARIES and other NA-approved parties in support of Alliance operations, missions and objectives

            – Psychological Operations: planned psychological activities using methods of communications and other means directed to approved audiences in order to INFLUENCE perceptions, attitudes and behaviour, affecting the achievement of political and military objectives”

            How nice – isn’t it?

            What I wonder is it just a kind of NAT0 ‘think tank’ or are they actually coordinating ‘information and psychological operations’ via sponsored journalists, trolls and dedicated media outlets? May be our fellow anti-Russian trolls are coming from there?

            Check out their online library as well – there are a lot of very curious materials – too much to read unfortunately. They are actually discussing the strategy and tactics of the Information war, targeted mostly against Russia, they call it a counter propaganda/disinformation, but whatever you call it.

            Don’t you think that it might be even worse than Russian ‘Savushkina 55’? Provided I understand them correctly. So that there were no illusions that it is not an information war, but just honest noble western journalists absolutely for free are just criticizing wrong Russia. What do you think?

          • stranger

            Just please, they are writing a lot of aggressive bullsh1t against Russia, don’t take everything for granted, filter out facts from conjectures and simply fantasies. I’m already afraid that somebody may take all that seriously. 🙂 They have perfect analyses from time to time but decorate it all into a lot of aggressive fantasies and conspirology plots.

        • Frank

          Haha, such a thing like a government funded/created troll factory is for 100% impossible in the country where I live, and I am pretty sure in the close countries around us as well.
          Haha, it is just not possible.
          Too many critical individualists, even so governments change and those who are in “power” at the moment fully support the democratic idea and evolvement and change of goverments.
          There is no need to do something and it doesn’t fit their democratic, freedom of thought/speech principles….
          Our politicians are not some distinctive social group like for instance the oligarchs etc, just people litterally of all kinds of different social levels of society. Just as their ideas differ.
          There just doesn’t exist any manipulation in that kind of way here. Also too many critical investigative individual journalists and citizens.
          It would not serve anybody and would not function. It is not even something politicians in general would want to create here… no need to…
          The very thought of it is just laughable, such is any comparison with the mechanisms in western europe countries.
          It is just different. Everybody should have it’s own opinions about what is better or not, though it is not to compare cause it is just totally different

          • Frank

            What I would like to add… we are used to different opinions and it is usefull in a dialectical sense… it is fully accepted and normal…

          • gra gor

            Well what country do YOU live in? You are surely not describing the United States or Canada, both countries with serious dis-information systems, government and private, especially TV and newspaper conglomerates (ie MSM).

        • Frank

          Oh I am not talking about foreign articles, just about known facts and in my honest opinion they are bad enough.
          As said everybody can have it’s own opinion if you agree with such dishonest policy, maybe because it serves something, though yes, I find it very very sad.
          I mean the last three bullets of this article.
          Dishonest immoral non-ethical policy is a bad and sad thing, something that doesn’t deserve any support.
          Yes it is sad.

          • stranger

            What do you mean if I agree? I don’t agree with trolling as well as any manipulation, propaganda or dishonesty.
            I’m saying I’ve seen anti Russian trolls even at this forum, anti Russian propaganda and just tons of disinformation. I’m just against ascribing this problem to only Russia.
            I’m still not sure the bullets at which page number do you mean? Because the last 3 points at the end look innocent.

  2. John Zenwirt

    Why my comments all caught up in “Moderation”, but I’ll bet this gets thru…

    • stranger

      There are forbidden words to trigger moderation: NAT0 is one of them, that’s why I write it via 0

  3. John Zenwirt

    How to Stop Russia’s Hacking.

    “Fourth, we should recognize that better protection in the future requires that the private sector have the capability to complement government actions. To accomplish this, the government should authorize certified entities to take approved actions under a coordinated framework to increase protection and resilience. In fact, the U.S. Constitution specifically provides for letters of marque for authorized private entities to take such actions. Certified private actors could be part of the expanded cyber-fusion efforts undertaken by the government.” (WashPost)

  4. John Zenwirt

    Russia has deployed an advanced S-400 surface-to-air missile battery to the Crimean Peninsula amid escalating tensions there, according to Russian news reports. The missile system, once operational, would be able to target aircraft deep into Ukrainian airspace. (WashPost)

  5. John Zenwirt

    stranger, why not do this;

    “U.S. general calls on Russia to allow observers at military drills.”

    “Russia should allow observers, including Western journalists, to attend upcoming military drills that could again put Ukraine on edge just as Russian President Vladimir Putin has sharpened his rhetoric, the commander of the U.S. Army in Europe told Reuters.” (Reuters)

  6. John Zenwirt

    stranger tries to make an equal place for those of us who criticize Russia & Russian Trolls….

    …But we have nothing at all, just individuals un-connected, arrayed against this:

    “The Agency” (NYT)

    In the west, NO one is paid to put comments, it’s done here freely.

    stranger sees his own nation, and makes up a mirror-image…

    “Around 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 11 last year, Duval Arthur, director of the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness for St. Mary Parish, Louisiana, got a call from a resident who had just received a disturbing text message. “Toxic fume hazard warning in this area until 1:30 PM,” the message read. “Take Shelter. Check Local Media and”

    “The Columbian Chemicals hoax was not some simple prank by a bored sadist. It was a highly coordinated disinformation campaign, involving dozens of fake accounts that posted hundreds of tweets for hours, targeting a list of figures precisely chosen to generate maximum attention.”

    “Who was behind all of this? When I stumbled on it last fall, I had an idea. I was already investigating a shadowy organization in St. Petersburg, Russia, that spreads false information on the Internet. It has gone by a few names, but I will refer to it by its best known: the Internet Research Agency. The agency had become known for employing hundreds of Russians to post pro-Kremlin propaganda online under fake identities, including on Twitter, in order to create the illusion of a massive army of supporters; it has often been called a “troll farm.” “link above.

    Russians spreading panic in the USA? Yes, it’s what they did and will do…

  7. HansHenrick

    MH17 Inquiry
    1st episode: “BUK” in Zugres
    2nd episode: The Elderberry bush
    3rd episode: MH17. About what was the BBC quiet?
    4th episode: In times of war, does the law fall silent?
    About the MH17 Inquiry
    MH17 Crash site Memorial Service

  8. Tourist

    Hello Bellingcat, will you answer in some way on those “Antibellingcat” “researches” which are currently fired out on RT and Sputnik to distract from verifyable facts? This is pure information war. Nebulization tactics.

    • Tourist

      Hello Bellingcat, russian propaganda machinery has now even released much more “information” over their channeels Sputnik and RT and more. Even BUK maker Almaz Anteil “discovered” radar raw data from the shot down and handed over to JIT just a few days before their first analysis result release. The strategy is clear and similar to a year ago a few days efore DSB released their report.


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