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Pre-MH17 Photograph of Buk 332 Discovered

June 5, 2017

By Bellingcat Investigation Team

Translations: Русский

Since the July 17, 2014 downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17), Bellingcat has published numerous articles concerning the anti-aircraft missile launcher that downed the passenger plane–Buk 332, of Russia’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade. This Buk missile launcher (TELAR) was previous dubbed “Buk 3×2” due to an obscured middle digit, but after a May 3, 2016 report, we established that the middle digit was originally a “3,” making the identity of this Buk clear. This report identified many of the details that allowed us to identify Buk 332, using materials as far back as 2009 and relying heavily on photographs and videos showing Buk 332 in a June 2014 convoy that traveled from near the missile launcher’s base in Kursk to Millerovo, near the Russia-Ukraine border. These details include the shape of the side skirt, a hollow wheel among spoked wheels on the right side, a dent in the left front panel, the arrangement and connections of electricity cables, the font and wider spacing of the digits of the unit designation, oil and soot stains, and white transport marks on both side skirts. The white gravity mark (appearing like a cross-hair) and transport mark on the left side of the vehicle were not unique for this vehicle in the convoy, but were clearly visible on Buk 332 both in the June 2014 convoy in Russia, and in July 17 and 18 photographs and videos while in eastern Ukraine. However, while photographs of Buk 332 uploaded on social media profiles of soldiers of the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade showed the white gravity mark, they did not show the white transport marks on the side of the vehicle and the side skirts.

Following a tip from Twitter user @Sl0zhny, Bellingcat was able to find the “missing link” photograph that shows these white transport markings on Buk 332 from before the June 2014 convoy. A photograph taken by a Russian mechanic, likely in the spring of 2013, shows Buk 332 with the same white transport markings that were on the Buk while in Ukraine shortly before and after the downing of MH17. This photograph is the last discovered image of Buk 332, showing its non-obscured unit designation and transport markings, before the June 2014 convoy, when the middle digit of its unit designation was painted over.

Buk-M1 missile launcher 332 of Russia’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade from online photo album of a Russian mechanic

The white digits, gravity mark, and transport marks in this photograph are in the same location as in photographs and videos of Buk 332 while it was in Russia in June 2014 and in Ukraine in July 2014.

Comparison of markings on the same side of Buk 332, from July 2012 to 2014. Highlighted are (from left to right): the unit designation number, which was obscured in the summer of 2014; the gravity mark (a cross-hair); an over-sized load rail transportation marking (H-2200). Note that some images photographed at an angle were flattened in the comparison above in order to align the markings. Due to parallax (a displacement of the apparent position due to the perspective and the flattening), the marks on the white sideskirts appear in different places, but are actually in the same position.

This Buk missile launcher was identified as Buk 332 from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade (military unit 32406) due to these common features. The mechanic’s photograph was taken at a vehicle yard of this brigade, as we can determine with the help of another photograph from the same area, uploaded by a cadet in August 2014. This photograph shows the same pink colored Krug missile container, visible in the mechanic’s Buk 332 photograph. The photograph is geotagged at the vehicle yard of the 53rd Brigade in Marshala Zhukova, near Kursk in Russia, which is correct after cross-referencing the features in the photograph with satellite imagery.

Vehicle yard area of the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade, as seen in a photograph uploaded by a cadet on August 3, 2014.

Comparison of the pink missile container and surrounding items. Background: satellite imagery of base of 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade in Marshala Zhukova from July 17, 2014 (Google Earth/Digital Globe); Right: Detail of pink missile container and surrounding items from satellite image; Top-left: Detail of cadet’s photograph from August 2014; Bottom-left: Detail of mechanic’s photograph from 2013.

Camera icon represents approximate location of photographer in mechanic’s photo. White square represents approximate location of mechanic. Green stars represent the location of the two Buk missile launchers, including Buk 332. Top: Mechanic’s photograph likely from 2013, showing Buk 332.

The mechanic’s initially discovered photo album was uploaded in February 2015, but doesn’t give the mechanic’s name or information about when or where the photographs were taken. RBC journalist Inna Sidorkova was able to contact a person who was involved with the photograph. This person confirmed that the mechanic was in this photograph with Buk 332, and that they recalled that the mechanic was in Kursk in 2013. When asked by the RBC journalist if it could have been in 2014, they replied that “it’s possible.” Aside from the Buk 332 photograph, the album shows photographs of a S-300 9A85 transloader, a special purpose vehicle (possibly a 9S52 Polyana-D4), and another Buk-M1 missile launcher.

Bellingcat managed to identify the mechanic and located several of his social media profiles. One of these social media profiles shows the Buk 332 photograph, and another social media profile shows two photographs that also are visible in his 2015 album. These photographs, one showing another Buk missile launcher and the other the special purpose vehicle, were uploaded on 31 March 2013. A third photograph shows a S-300 9A83 missile launcher, uploaded on 20 June 2013. Other photographs before 31 March 2013 or after 20 June 2013 do not show his work as mechanic of military equipment.

March 31, 2013 photograph from one of the mechanic’s social media profiles showing him sitting on a Buk missile launcher.

March 31, 2013 photograph from one of the mechanic’s social media profiles showing him in front of a a special purpose vehicle (possibly a 9S52 Polyana-D4).

June 20, 2013 photograph from one of the mechanic’s social media profiles showing him sitting inside a S-300 9A83 missile launcher.

These photographs, including the Buk 332 image, were very likely taken around the same time in spring and the early summer of 2013. With these photos all being in the same 2015 album, the non-obscured unit designation number, and the information received by RBC journalist Inna Sidorkova, it is clear that the photograph was almost certainly taken in 2013, but there is a remote possibility that it was taken in spring 2014.


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  1. Mr White

    show me some original videos with date. location and timestamp and the author’s name and contact details and I will have full confidence.

    • Mad Dog

      yeah, that would go over really well in places like Donbas and the USSR, erh, Russian Federation. Here you go FSB, name and contact details for this traitor. Go get ’em. Brilliant Mr. White, just bloody (literally) brilliant.

      • pcx

        Agree completely, there is no protection for anyone in Russia who disagrees with Putin. Nor for some people outside, as happened in the UK..

        • stranger

          Not true. Thouthands of people openly disagree with Putin. There are rather bitter opposition mass media – Echo of Moscow, Novaya Gazeta, not the least US sponsored Radio Liberty.
          You’d better look in the mirror. 33 deaths around Clintons?! C’mon, even if most of them is conspirology, that is what you easily believe about Russia. And what if they are not?!
          Just the first link I’ve found, google for more:

          • pcx

            I agree the Clintons were rotten, but how many have just been arrested for demonstrating against Putin?

          • pcx

            I don’t blame Russians, just Putin, former KGB and their successors. A lot of Russians live here and for the most part very nice people.

          • stranger

            Most of Russian don’t see any serious issues with Putin. Putin as well as Russia itself have been intentionally demonized in the western mass media and politicians statements for the last years. That is similar to how Yugoslavia and Serbs were demonized before barbarian bombings. Most of info about Russia is highly exaggerated if not perverted currently. We can discuss pros and cons of Putin internally. But what is going on externally now is just hysteria and idiocy. There is no any dialog with Russia or even attempt to understand.

          • pcx

            Stranger, you know me a little, I don’t rely on the Western Press. Your police and secret services are not very nice. That is not to say everything is perfect in the West. “One of two suspects charged with the murder of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, Zaur Dadayev, confessed under duress, a member of Russia’s Human Rights Council says.
            Andrei Babushkin, who visited Mr Dadayev on Tuesday, says he saw “numerous wounds” on his body, suggesting he had been tortured.” Bearing in mind that there are many cameras around the Kremlin, how is it that none saw who really did it? And why did it take a long time for police to arrive after the shooting?

          • stranger

            I didn’t look closely into Nemtsov case. There could have been people from many sides interested in this murder. Including might be Chechen leaders, might somebody from the opposition especially those who are hiding in Germany and fund protests in Russia. Nemtsov was absolutely harmless for Putin in the current situation, unless may be participating in the 2018 elections, but even then he hardly had chances. He was kharismatic and very well known, but again not really dangerous. His death caused a great resonance. The theatric scene just by the Kremlin walls to make a perfect picture for the western press tells likely it was not the government. I tend to think Putin has nothing to do with this murder. From the other sides, there is no data to suspect somebody in particular.
            The time police came to the place is absolutely irrelevant. The regular police wouldn’t have known about the assasination plan in anyway. The same concerns the investigators and other personal. The investigators might have had personal interest to close this case or get more information from the suspects especially for such a resonant murder. But again, there should be something material to discuss. About Babishkin and Dadaev, we need to read the available case material. Honestly I didn’t have time and interest to study this case closely.

          • pcx

            You know there is massive security round the Kremlin with cameras everywhere, but not one recorded anything? I don’t believe it. Also shots fired outside the Kremlin should have an immediate response. In London after the militant Muslims attacked, it took 8 minutes from the first emergency call and all three were shot dead. You cannot tell me that with shots fired just outside the Kremlin that it took much longer to respond unless they did not want to hurry.

          • stranger

            The time was 11:30pm, not too many cars or people on the bridge. There is at least one dash cam recordings though. Anna Duritskaya, walking together with Nemtsov, an Ukrainian (btw!) model was the direct witness. Ukraine has a motive to frame Kremlin too btw.
            But even IF the Kremlin was planning this murder, they wouldn’t let local police or even FSO, kremlin security, know. More people are devoted, more leaks are possible. Regardless of the orderer that would look the same – the hired for money killer, especially from Chechnya, with a chain of multiple intermediate nodes between the killer and the orderer. But I don’t believe Kremlin gained anything from this murder. I think they have lost a lot because it was greatly exploited in the west against Kremlin. That was before Clinton’s campaign making a scarecrow from Russia, so that was really a loud media even that time.

          • stranger

            How soon did the police come? In 11 minutes? Not too slow.
            May be there are records from the cameras not shown publically. The police managed to trace the killers’ car. That’s how they were found.
            We need to study the available materials of this case.

          • stranger

            I mean, the trial of the Nemtsov case is an open jury trial. As far as I know the courts materials, testimonies or at least their retellings by journalists can be found on the net. It is worth to study the original sources, if you wish. The immediate executors were found while the orderer was not. I don’t know, I’m just saying many sides had a motive.

          • pcx

            The point I am making is that security at the Kremlin will be high, there will be armed police and/or soldiers on standby at all times. It shouldn’t take more than a few moments for them to arrive on scene. If British police can respond from a different location and kill 3 terrorists in 8 minutes why did it take so long for Russian police/soldiers to respond when this happened within sight of the Kremlin. I know a little about security.

          • Swiss

            @ pcx

            > You know there is massive security round the Kremlin with cameras
            > everywhere, but not one recorded anything? I don’t believe it.

            Let me ask the same about Maidan snipers. So many people with mobile phones around, so many cameras in the government quarters. So many people killed (not just one). And no real results. Some fake accusations from the putsch organizers blaming police corps for that. And to hide last traces, the trees with bullet marks were all cut. As well as no worries in our (Western) media about the absence of real investigation results. I tend to agree with Stranger that our mass media is somewhat biased (and definitely not pro-Russian).

            The links I posted before, but didn’t get a reply from you on that
            (a Swiss guy reporting about the Maidan putsch, which was presented as “peaceful protests” in our media):

            Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet about who killed people on Maidan in Kyiv:

            How would you comment on that, my Ukrainian friend?

          • stranger

            Yes, I understand. But you imply that the FSO (Kremlin security) and/or regular police (like 911 service) were involved into the crime and intentionally didn’t react on the call or fire shots? I think that is highly unlikely because too much people involved would make it impossible to keep secret. I think nothing follows from the time police has come.
            Whoever wanted it would hire a paid professional (or not so much) ordered killer.
            I’ve never seen soldiers on the red square, they might hide well. But I did see soldiers in JFK in NYC btw.
            Terrorists are not the same as an ordered killer because terrorists don’t hide and usually are suicidal.
            Did Duritskaya call the police? I’ve found on the inet they arrived in 11 min. May be wrong.

          • pcx

            I can tell you that there are both police and soldiers at Buckingham Palace, any incident near its walls would be dealt with swiftly. The Kremlin is a very high profile place, I do not believe it has less security than the Palace. I do not believe that they do not have armed agents always on standby. I repeat, they could have had an armed response from the Kremlin almost immediately.

          • stranger

            Well, I understand your point but IF Kremlin is behind this crime, they would have never let the Kremlin security know, because otherwise it would have leaked to mass media very soon. I don’t believe it. On the other hand if Kremlin gave a hint, “friend Kadyrov, solve a problem”, or if Kadurov was frightened for his future and wanted to make a present as he understood it, or somebody decided at a lower level. Or on the other hand somebody wanted to frame Kremlin, like Ukraine(hypothetically), Khodorkovskiy (as he got used to solve problems in 90s, and to remove an uncontrollable competitor, theoretically again), Zakayev or Co (?) from the unrecognized independend republic Izhkeria (independend Chechnya they fought for against Russia), or foreign special services (no any evidences either). A a side “bonus” in the latter case Russia potentially would have received the tentions with extremely flammable Chechnya. But just pure speculations.
            That is not so stratefirward as you assume, that the kremlins security was let know about the “special operation” or that’s why didn’t come. That is what you are saying? Russia is not as wild as you think.
            From the pictures of the crime scene, we can see a lot of regular police, ambulance and detectives. That is not immediately by the kremlins walls, that is on the bridge. The street cleaning truck driver who was there at the time of the murder called police. Not sure how soon they have come.

  2. Mad Dog

    What a brilliant set of reasons for us all to view stranger as the apologist supreme! No problem with Russia, just a bunch of Western Propaganda at fault.

    • mclair

      absolutely correct mad dawg. it is western propaganda. the u.s. gov learned their lesson during vietnam. they lost that war due in part to public opinion driven by a then free press. now however the press is nothing more than the propaganda arm of the u.s. government protecting the 1%ers and eisenhower’s military–industrial complex. face it, we no longer control the gov or our lives. just look at the two morons we were told to vote for in the last presidential election. one a morally corrupt war monger willing to nuke to entire planet and the other a morally corrupt idiot with the mind of a child that can be manipulated into anything, including nuking the entire planet. give me a break, stop believing anything spewed by the government or the “free press”.

  3. muchandr

    There is absolutely no reason to invent some kind of transfer from Kursk as 156st AA regiment of Ukraine had its 3rd battalion based in Luhansk. They also had a #332 and in general those are likely to repeat for every regiment/brigade in both Russia and Ukraine. Number means 3rd battalion, 3rd companie, assigned to loader #2

    After this is cleared, there is a still a question why this one and not any of the other 3xx vehicles, other than there is a need to fit dashcam videos taken in Russia for some reason. Why does it have to be a Russian one if there’s already one just like it belonging to Ukraine where it is supposed to be?

      • muchandr

        And, how is the progress of the Russian invasion? I mean with all the thousands of tanks and aircraft they ought to be some by now.

        And what business does Ukrainian government have using aircraft against people who disagreed with the way Maidan came to power? Note that they were initially no separatists (unlike Crimea that always was) and considered themselves Ukranian. They simply preferred the government the way it was. Note that that government stood down instead of bringing tanks to Maidan, which they very well could have. I think they should have, but you know about hindsight being 100%

        Back to the primary topic of our conversation. It is fairly well established that separatists have a Buk. All we need to know that Torez was under their control on 17th, which everybody says it was. It was likely seen running away with a missile missing on some intersection in Luhansk. There are more issues with that piece of evidence but lets suppose it is true. Those could be connected to a single Buk seen in Russia, the one in Stariy Oskol. If the Separatist does indeed exhibit the same distinct roller pattern and white smudge, as well as complete lack on the board number. Than there are intercepts proving the Separatists got a Buk from Russia. Speaking of which.

        According to this intercept from evening the 16th, the separatists did not get the Buk till next morning

        This directly contradicts the earlier DSB suggestion that it was used sometime earlier to shoot down a Su-25 fighter flying at 6250 m. Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t Ukraine’s Su-25s not have an optional oxygen kit that allowed them to fly higher than the range of ManPADs around 5km? Because if it did, that it could also fly to 10 km and use its guns to fire at MH17. Not having a jet fighter to fly that high was the main argument refuting that particular version. Another piece of contradicting evidence detected.

        So, why bother piling tons of observations on various old Buks supposedly with 53rd? The 3×2 and 332 observations are all done on the different side of the vehicle. There is nothing I see on Bellingcat and very little elsewhere connecting that to anything observed in Torez, Luhansk and Stariy Oskol on the obverse side of the vehicle. So why is everybody so interested in specifically 53rd? Maybe because it is so much fun? Those vehicles tracked through entire Russia without the nets because it is some kind of traveling junkyard. I looked at some videos tracking that vehicle column now. Another vehicle has a funny and distinct colored radome, half have top rails broken off, only TELs have missiles loaded. Does not look like operational brigade at all. BTW, I can play that game too. The Separatist Buk seen in Luhansk has missiles with white nosecones. The “53rd” TELs only red or green uniform with missile body. How come? The rules of engagement demand that you’ve seen everything at it was brought from Kursk. So white-coned missiles must be in those trucks! Right? Incidentally, the nosecone of the missile presented by JIT is not white. It seems to be more of a color of galvanized zinc like a household bucket. Never seen one on a missile, but interested to know how come it is so well preserved. (possible if the explosion is “shaped”)

        So, would you please skip the extraneous details. Even if separatist Buk did come from Russia, the evidence of 53rd brigade is not really there. Important is that this is not the only Buk in range and not even the only one running with missiles spent. Presumably, everyone who had a Buk shooting missiles chickened out and ran. With there obviously being additional candidates, only one did. So why don’t you for starters address the trigonometric argument? It is not possible for a single M1 to tag targets in 10 km height within the range accessible to its missiles. If it is indeed restricted to 7 degree elevation.

  4. EM

    “And, how is the progress of the Russian invasion?” – Thousands of dead. Are you satisfied, scum?
    “And what business does Ukrainian government have using aircraft against people who disagreed with the way Maidan came to power…? Russian combatants with Russian weapons led by Russian citizen Girkin can “disagree” only in Russia. In Ukraine they are invaders.
    “There is nothing I see on Bellingcat and very little elsewhere connecting that to anything observed in Torez, Luhansk and Stariy Oskol on the obverse side of the vehicle” – if you see “nothing” it is only your problem.
    “So why is everybody so interested in specifically 53rd? Maybe because it is so much fun?”
    Because Russian BUK 332 from 53rd Anti Aircraft Missile brigade shot down MH17. And this is not “funny”

    • muchandr

      Funny, a new one, but still filmed from the usual Ukrainian side. With the black van blocking the potentially special roller, we’ve got nothing but the white smudge on the side skirts. Which Bellingcat previously claiming (though without any backing) the smudge is on both sides. But wait, here it is not a smudge, but the oversize marker “H-2400” which I haven’t even seen before. Only “H-2000” and “H-2200″. Whoever applies those is none too particular about the size, but this one cannot be the 3×2 through your own claims. If it does have a number, it must be on the other, Russian side.

      The Dutch are actually informative this time around. The last 9M38M1 was supposedly last made in 86? This stuff must be even more ancient and come with pre-M1 original 70-ties Buk, which neither Russia nor Ukraine really has around. I think any TELAR upgraded beyond M1 spec won”t fire it or any corresponding TEL won’t load or both. This means any Russian Buk must be from mothballed storage, not from active duty with any 53rd, because Russia only uses M1-2 and M2s which cannot use it. I also don’t think its got even 35 km range you mentioned. Total antiquity. I have nothing new to prove with the above paragraph, but this comes as a surprise, as yet another Almaz-Antey hypothesis supposedly debunked, with everybody claiming it must be the 9M38M1 missile at least. Also Bellingcat

      Oh yeah, scum!

  5. EM

    “The Separatist Buk seen in Luhansk has missiles with white nosecones. The “53rd” TELs only red or green uniform with missile body. How come?” – LOL!!!
    “but didn’t Ukraine’s Su-25s not have an optional oxygen” – LOL!!! Again?!!! How about “Carlos the Spanish air traffic controller” or “Unfresh corpses” LOL.

    “It is not possible for a single M1 to tag targets in 10 km height within the range accessible to its missiles.” If it is indeed restricted to 7 degree elevation.” – LOL, no. – by elevation: 7 degrees with travel on a corner from -10 to +80 degrees.
    Buk radar’s “field of vision” move up and down and also can rotate 360 degrees by azymuth.

    • muchandr

      It is a picture of M2 TELAR in service with Russia only. Did you geolocate it to prove it is also with 53rd? So far, this proves that both white and red nosecones exist. I understand it is kinda silly, but this whole “Kursk convoy” seems to have brought no white caps with them. Where from and why do only white cones appear on “separatist Buk(s)” seen in Ukraine. Since they’ve got no TEL, the (pre)loading must’ve been done in Russia to fit with your story? The interesting question is of course if there is any relation no missile model numbers color-coded by the cone.

      Yes, again. Its called circular logic. The separatists couldn’t have possibly downed any Ukrainian fighters flying over 5km with ManPADs, but of course the Ukrainians never flew higher, because their Su-25s were not equipped. I am not particularly interested in following yet another cold trail, but it worth noting if one of the main arguments used to debunk the fighter jet branch of investigation is suddenly invalid. Incidentally, the Ukrainians now are blaming an unknown Russian MiG shooting down their Su-25 on 16th. They must think its going pretty well for them, eh? But we’ll see about that. I have nothing new to report on Carlos or unfresh corpses.

      Now that you made up just now or confused with M2. Elevation is strictly this

      None of the Buks has a 360 degree sectoral view, only 120. That can be fixed by moving the turret or the whole vehicle, but on its own, radar does not cover. Underneath the large M1 radome is some kind of an antenna dish that is mechanically swept every 4 seconds to get the whole sector. M1-2 is no different here, it did not improve at all. Now that flat slab in front of M2 is fancy electronic PESA array. Its got no moving parts and it looks like you looked up its specs instead. Source give from up to 70 to -5..85 elevation instead of 0..7 of old analogue radars. Big difference. That stat exceeds the old battalion radar thing which achieved up to 55 degrees elevation (its one of 3 fixed presets) at ~160 km range. M2s don’t need that thing all that much anymore. Haven’t seen -10 yet. You do realize that negative elevations means firing underneath the horizontal plane? Only useful if you put the vehicle on elevated ground. The last important observation is P in PESA meaning passive. Up to M1, the missile had a passive radar and was guided all the way to the target by the TELAR firing it, possibly assisted by other radars. That made the 7 degree think suck even more. Now they still can, but prefer not to, to prevent return fire back up your own radar beam. So newer missiles home using actively seeking radars of their own and launching TELAR only passively listens, possibly only transmitting corrections once in a while.

      Check your sources again. You sure its for M1?


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