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Bellingcat Podcast: MH17, Episode 1 Guide: The People Who Fell From the Sky

July 17, 2019

By Bellingcat Podcast

You can listen to the first episode of the Bellingcat Podcast on the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) by subscribing on any major podcast application by searching “Bellingcat”, including at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn. You can manually add the podcast RSS feed to your favorite podcast app with the URL:

If you enjoy the podcast, be sure to check out our Patreon, where we will upload bonus materials from the podcast to our subscribers over next few months.

Episode Description

The crash site is a horrifying scene. A sunburnt field of wheat and sunflowers peppered with hundreds of bodies that have fallen from the sky. The victims have been stripped naked by the force of the wind. Some are still strapped into the seats of a plane that has been torn to pieces in mid-air. Many of these bodies are eerily well persevered. Others are completely ripped apart.

Journalists on the ground encounter an anarchic scene, guarded by drunken rebel soldiers. These surly and unpredictable men threaten to kneecap reporters who get too close.

Eventually, after days in the sun, the decomposing bodies are transported onto a train with no fixed destination. Who was responsible for this unspeakable scene? Eliot Higgins and his team at Bellingcat are determined to find out.

Revolution and War

In July 2014, high-ranking officials within Russia’s security apparatus made a decision that led to the senseless death of 298 civilians over eastern Ukraine: to send a powerful Soviet-era anti-aircraft missile system to the middle of a conflict zone. A year prior, this decision would have been nearly unthinkable. However, after the ousting of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine, the sight of a missile launcher carrying four 1500-pound rockets moving through the middle of small mining town didn’t seem so far-fetched.

Our guests in episode 1 of the podcast described their experience in eastern Ukraine before the downing of MH17. Read, hear, and watch some of their reports from weeks before the downing:

For comprehensive understanding of the situation in eastern Ukraine at the outbreak of and throughout the war in eastern Ukraine, we strongly recommend watching Simon Ostrovsky’s “Russian Roulette” video series, filmed for VICE News. You can watch all of the Russian Roulette episodes on YouTube, with episode 1 embedded below.

The Crash Site

The crash site for MH17 was spread out over fifty square kilometers in eastern Ukraine, after the plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile at 4:20pm local time. Below, a map can be seen of the major sites of wreckage provided by the Dutch Safety Board — the official technical investigation into the reason for the MH17 downing.

During the first episode of the podcast, you heard from a number of journalists who visited the crash site. Below, you can find some of the analysis, impressions, and findings written by our podcast guests from immediately after the downing of MH17:

Check for Yourself

If you would like to see the crash site yourself, download Google Earth Pro (application, not web interface) and load up the program. After that, put in coordinates near the crash site — you can manually enter the coordinates into the Search box on the top-left (for example, 48.135091, 38.638815, as seen below) or type in the name of the nearest town (Hrabove, Ukraine).

After you find the right location, you will need to find the right time, as the default satellite image is the more recent one (August 2017) from after the wreckage was cleared. Go to View in the menu bar (in both Windows and Mac), and then choose Historical Imagery.

This will create a small timeline on the top-left corner of the image, allowing you to travel through Google’s available satellite imagery for this location. If you go back to July 2014, you can find the wreckage in a field immediately south to the village of Hrabove. On July 21st (local time), you can most clearly see the wreckage and the trails through the field created by emergency responders.

Preview: Episode 2 Summary

In the days after the MH17 downing, journalists scour social media for clues. They immediately notice something odd. Roughly 24 hours after the plane came down, 65,000 suspiciously co-ordinated tweets blaming Kyiv, Ukraine for the deaths, flood Twitter.

The Russian Ministry of Defence organises a press conference to lay out their evidence. Eliot and the Bellingcat team pick through each claim, revealing the carefully staged media event to be little more than a pack of lies. From badly photoshopped images of missile launchers, dodgy radar data and tall tales of fictitious Ukrainian fighter jets.

The Russians do not claim to know the answer to who downed MH17, rather they suggest that no one can know the answer. It seems that for them the truth is entirely subjective and negotiable. Eliot and his team at Bellingcat disagree.

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  1. Gregory Allen Leeds M.S.

    Lourdes in Cuba (electronic listening station) was rumored by Russian sources to be reopened, then categorically denied by the Putin press advisors at the exact time. This follows precedent from Russian intelligence from the past with compromised AGITPROP (Agitation and Propaganda) operations that led to mass casualty events with innocent bystanders. The Soviet Union, now Russia, has yet to be tried for crimes against humanity or genocide (as with the United States) and this was a reason the GOP leadership choose to embrace the platform of current U.S. President Trump. Trumps speeches on torture, the internment of U.S. citizens during WWII that was precedent for the Muslim travel ban and his comments on Saddam Hussein using “[poison] gas” is clear reason the initiate impeachment proceedings and hold his enablers legally responsible in an international criminal court.

    • oui oui

      imagine a bending referendum in the UK , the law says the government have to follow the result . if some cheating during the campaign comes to the surface , this referendum is invalidate , the law saying the government have to not follow the result
      there is no way to invalidate an advisory referendum , may be because you don’t have to follow the result
      how can a government says that they have to follow the result of an advisory referendum that they would have to not follow if the referendum had been binding

  2. Ray C Finch III

    it would be helpful if you added a simple mp3 download option for those of us who don’t subscribe to one of the platforms. thanks and keep up the good work.

  3. Ray Todd

    Thank you for an excellent, if disturbing podcast. I too would appreciate a downloadable MP3, which I could listen to when cycling or at the gym – where I find I can more easily concentrate on the content (certainly I seem to remember more from podcasts I only listen to online)

  4. Ben

    It’s not as easy as an actual ‘download’ link, but you can click the RSS link in your browser and then hit Ctrl+F to search for “.mp3” which will lead you to the URL of the MP3 file. From there you can copy the link, open a new tab/window, paste it in, and your browser will prompt you to download the file.

  5. Ert777

    Put the podcast on YouTube for the caveman ah…some of us don’t have a Apple Podests, Spopefy or Snitchcher, and TuneIn…..

  6. Wim Theunisse

    In the past I wrote, concerning weight, speed and travel distance that what the inhabitants of the Seychelles saw can make sense.
    Even a captain of an aircraft compagny got his publication about the same subjects of weight, speed and westward course of the aircraft.

    My opinion is that the aircraft MUST NOT be found for specific reasons.
    The cargo

    What was on board on the plane, the cargo, was never made clear.
    There were thousends batteries for phones on board they ( newspapers ) say.
    Maybe these batteries heated up.
    My personal view:
    The captain was psychotic and killed.

    Why did research take place in an erea of which the bollocks were sure that the plane could not be found.

    Any explanation is welcome.

    Sincerely yours,

  7. Wim Theunisse

    Of topic info: For many years I was a security officer at a militairy airbase during 7 years.
    During that time I had to check and control militairy aircraft.
    That education is the reason for my opinion written above.



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