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MH17 – The Open Source Investigation, Three Years Later

July 17, 2017

By Bellingcat Investigation Team

The full report can be downloaded here 

Полная версия отчета на русском языке— здесь 

Today, we are releasing a report summarizing all major open source evidence surrounding the downing of MH17 in an easy-to-read 73-page survey. This report is broken into thirteen chapters, summarizing the circumstances that led to the downing of MH17, information on the Buk missile launcher that downed the passenger plane, a summary of alternative scenarios regarding the downing, and other essential areas of information.

For those well-versed in the twists and turns surrounding the MH17 case, most of the information in this report will be familiar. This report is aimed at those looking for a more accessible introduction into the information around this tragic event, which has seen massive disinformation campaigns around it and continues to be relevant with the ongoing Dutch-led criminal investigation. Below is a summary of the findings of this survey:

  • Between June 23-25, 2014, Russia’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade transported vehicles within Russia to positions close to the Russian border with Ukraine. This includes Buk 332, later photographed and filmed in Ukraine on July 17 and 18, 2014.
  • On July 17, 2014, Buk 332 was in Ukraine, and arrived in Donetsk in the morning. From there, while loaded onto red low-loader, it traveled eastwards through separatist-held territory, and eventually reached the town of Snizhne in the early afternoon.
  • After arriving in Snizhne, Buk 332 was unloaded and drove under its own power southward, out of 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 traveling east through the separatist-controlled city of Luhansk on the morning of July 18, 2014 missing one missile. Intercepted communications indicate that the missile launcher was taken into Russia shortly after this video was filmed.
  • On July 21, 2014, the Russian MoD presented a series of fabricated and misleading information about the flight path of MH17, radar data, the location of the July 18, 2014 Luhansk video, and the inclusion of misdated and heavily edited satellite imagery.
  • Almaz-Antey presented data that was not reflected by witness statements on the ground, any open source information, or the technical assessments made by the DSB.
  • No credible evidence has been presented that shows any operational Ukrainian Buk missile launcher was near a position in range of downing MH17 on July 17, 2014.
  • The only credible candidate for the missile launcher that downed MH17 is Russian Buk 332, of the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade.

Additionally, we would like to use this opportunity to call for an increased focus on discovering information on two individuals central to the MH17 case: Orion and Delfin. These two men, whose first names and patronymics are Andrey Ivanovich (Orion) and Nikolai Fyodorovich (Delfin), are being sought by the Dutch-led criminal investigation into the downing of MH17. The JIT’s call for witnesses regarding these two men, along with telephone conversations with their voices, can be seen below:

Orion (Орион) has also been called “Oreon” (Ореон) in a telephone call published by the Ukrainian Security Services (SBU). This call-sign is not unique in the Donbas, with other Rusisan and separatist fighters using this name, but Delfin (Дельфин, or “The Dolphin”) is more uncommon. The transcripts of these calls can be found here (in English) and here (in Russian). Additionally, the call published by the SBU called Orion a Russian officer of the GRU, but this information has not been verified.

Bellingcat, along with other online investigators, were able to discover a large amount of information on Sergey Dubinsky, or “Khmury,” another key figure in the downing of MH17. By searching some of the same sources – old videos, popular separatist message boards frequented by fighter sand their friends and family, photographs of meetings from the summer of 2014 between separatist officials and fighters – it may be possible to discover more information about Orion and Delfin. If you find information or a possible lead, tweet it out with the hashtag #OrionDelfin or #ОрионДельфин

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  1. D.B.

    I am not shocked by this Bellingcat pseudo investigation. More alarming is that mainstream fanatic propaganda adopt it. a) Rebels had no reason to have BUK an even to use it, b) ukrainian army already shot down one plane several years ago, c) cui bono? everybody else has some advantage except rebels and Russia, d) only guilty is Ukraine as it allow civil planes fly over the zone of active military actions, e) this is not only russophobic action, it is a part of propaganda and desinformation campaign, f) where are radar and satelite data? US government stated that they have it (and cannot show, we must believe them similarly to Iraqui weapons…)

    • Alex

      Of course, Donbass rebels had no reason to use BUK. But Putin have. To rise stakes and mount international political pressure on Kiev government for “negotiations”. So MH17 shot it is not “mistake” or “occasion”.

      Killing innocents people for political goals is not new for Putin – remember “Ryazan’s sugar”.

        • Adam

          Logic? I mean, there’s tons of it, but whether or not you wish to recognize it, that’s the question.

          What Alex is referring to is the 1999 Apartment bombings, which set into motion the second Chechen War and Putin’s rise. Whether you agree that the Russian government was behind the bombings or not, that investigation and government claims relating to the bombings were farcical, and you need look no further than the bags of sugar claim, which no one with a lick of common sense or reason would buy.

          • vvv

            yes ruSSian troll. ruSSian didnt shoot dwon this plane…it was aliens

        • B.Z.

          Man who think that “rebels” didn`t have reason to use BUK something said about logic?)))

    • Zachary

      Only weeks prior, rebels had bragged on social media that they had ‘captured’ a Buk. They deleted this claim soon after MH17 was brought down then began claiming they never had one. However in the preceeding weeks several aircraft were brought down in the vicinity of the MH17 incident, including the same type of cargo planes Russian media initially were claiming REBELS shot down. You can find LifeNews video of that claim.

      “ukrainian army already shot down one plane several years ago”

      So? That was an accident. Every part involved agreed it was. It has no bearing on this situation.

      “cui bono? everybody else has some advantage except rebels and Russia,”

      I stubbed my toe this morning. Cui bono?

      “this is not only russophobic action, it is a part of propaganda and desinformation campaign”

      How many theories has Russian media & propaganda thrown up? A Polish MiG brought down MH17. Two Ukrainian Su25s, operating above the listed specifications on Sukhoi’s own website, shot down MH17. MH17 was filled with dead bodies. MH17 is actually MH370. MH17 was purposefully brought down by Ukraine, as confirmed by a Spanish ATC who for whatever reason was working in a Ukrainian control tower. The shootdown was an attempt to assassinate Putin. Etc. Etc.

      This is what a disinformation campaign looks like, comrade.

      ” where are radar and satelite data? US government stated that they have it (and cannot show, we must believe them similarly to Iraqui weapons…)”

      So has Russia. Yet what they have provided so far is farce. Perhaps the real reason the U.S. AND Russia don’t want to release data they have is because they don’t want to reveal what kinds of capabilities they have in theater. But you know, I like your fun fairytales instead.

      • trak

        All the fake stories you are talking about came from western medias first. So who made up the disinformation campaign you are talking about?

        • Zachary Stephan Layne

          You’re right. Me stubbing my toe is a fake story made up by western media. I don’t even have toes!

  2. Ray F.

    Great job Bellingcat! For the past 3 years, the Kremlin and its army of trolls and useful idiots have attempted to muddy the waters as to who was responsible for this crime. Someone, very high within the Kremlin and/or the MoD gave the order to move this Buk system into the separatist-controlled territory of Ukraine, and these same high-level individuals are doing everything possible to escape punishment. Keep up the good work. The truth will prevail.

  3. Adam

    It’s fascinating to watch how quickly people come out of the woodwork to defend Russia but don’t bother to actually refute the findings in the report. It’s all based on open source information, so by all means use open source methods to refute it and offer an alternative story/theory.

    Here are the facts, which cannot be disputed: the Russian government released falsified evidence that any one of us can do basic research to see is in fact false.

    Russia has repeatedly lied about their actions in the Ukraine. The government continually denied the presence of Russian troops in rebel held areas even as rebels and members of the Russian force had confirmed it.

    Rebel forces, in their own pictures and videos, confirm the Buk was in their territory before and after the downing of the plane. That media, after the incident, showed it missing a missile that was in the previous pictures.

    Hey ya’ll: assuming you’re not part of a Russian propaganda effort it’s okay to admit that Russia, and the rebels they backed, murdered innocent civilians and that the Russian government is engaged in a cover up. Those of us in the west, including in the United States, are all too familiar with our own governments doing the same. It’s okay to see things not in black and white but in shades of gray. Once you try to excuse those actions though you become complicit in the crimes that have been committed.

    • Zachary Stephan Layne

      Why bother with evidence when you just FEEL the truth is one way?

    • brylcream

      “the Russian government released falsified evidence …”

      What evidence?

      “The government continually denied the presence of Russian troops …”

      “Legally, we can not talk about the occupation of the Donbass, because there are no Russian authorities, do I understand correctly?
      Georgi Tuka:
      – Formally, yes. In addition, we can not yet, despite all diligence, legally prove the presence of the regular Russian army in the Donbass.

      On July 10, 2017 for

      Since 29 April 2016 Tuka is Deputy Minister for the temporarily occupied territories and internally displaced persons in the Groysman government.

      • TerroRussia

        ““the Russian government released falsified evidence …” What evidence?
        Ask the mother of Russian captive gefreiter Ageev, who is on her way to Kiev now.

  4. Bert

    I would not let the stupid russian trolls on mission for Putin publish their reaction here though their arguments are pathetic and based on propaganda facts. The same for 3 years now.

    • Mad Dog

      Actually, it is best to let the trolls and others post here as that is what an open forum is all about. It give us a chance to refute their arguments and point out where the misinformation really is. The MH17 story is just full of Russian explanations provide with evidence that just doesn’t hold up, so that is a positive. I am still waiting for the official Russian explanation about the Jihadi warehouse supposedly blown up to release Sarin in Syria, but nothing has been provided. Even so, many folks believe that explanation…..but no one has found the warehouse! Bwa ha ha, same kind of silly approach here with Russian fumbling around feverishly looking for the ‘truth’.

      • Dr. Da

        Fully agree.
        Looks some otherwise very active Russian “defenders of the fatherland” like ‘stranger’ or ‘Mr. White’ haven’t even engaged on this article, perhaps because the evidence is just too overwhelming?

  5. Jerry

    Bellingcat. Keep up the good work and pressure. With your efforts, eventually the truth about russian involvement will be accepted as fact.

  6. alex

    Thank you guys for great job you doing! We hope that the perpetrators of that terrible crime ever will be punished finally!


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