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Bellingcat Podcast: MH17, Episode 4 Guide: Manhunt

August 7, 2019

By Bellingcat Podcast

You can listen to the fourth episode of the Bellingcat Podcast on the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17), “Manhunt”, 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

28 September 2016 – the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team issues a statement calling for assistance in finding the identities of a number of men they believe to be responsible for downing MH17.

Eliot and his colleagues set to work seeking to unmask the separatists and their Russian handlers who, to date, have only been known by their code names. It turns out that the separatists all use mobile phones, but little do they know that the Ukrainian SBU secret service has been listening in. The SBU release a treasure trove of intercepted calls filled with furtive individuals making all manner of shady plans.

Bellingcat journalists find the contact details of potential suspects and secretly record phony calls with them. Independent experts examine the calls and use voice recognition software to compare them to the SBU intercepts. We have a match. Bellingcat are able to crack the code names and expose the first three men believed to be responsible for downing MH17.


Our Guests 

Our guests in episode 4 of the podcast described their experience with hunting for suspects tied to the downing of MH17. Below, you can read some of their reports on the three suspects discussed in the episode — Sergey Dubinsky (Khmury), Oleg Ivannikov (Orion/Andrey Ivanovich), and Nikolai Tkachev (Delfin).

Pavel Kanygin: Hmuriy’s Voice (Novaya Gazeta, 26 April 2017)

Roman Dobrokhotov: Охота на «Дельфина». Ключевой фигурант дела о сбитом «Боинге» MH17 оказался российским генерал-полковником (The Insider, 8 December 2017)

Roman Dobrokhotov: Его выдал женский голос. Опознан генерал ГРУ, ключевой фигурант дела о сбитом «Боинге» MH17 (The Insider, 25 May 2018)


The Fake Personas Behind the Real Tragedy

The three key figures behind the downing of MH17 discussed in the podcast are all still living in Russia, with little chance of them ever leaving the country again.

Sergey Nikolaevich Dubinsky, also known as “Khmury” and “Nikolaevich”, was the head of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic’s military intelligence, directly subordinate to Igor “Strelkov” Girkin. You can read more about Dubinsky, his biography, and his role in the downing of MH17 in the Bellingcat investigations below:

Nikolai Fyodorovich Tkachev, also known as “Delfin”, is a semi-retired Colonel General in the Russian Armed Forces, and has previously served as a senior military advisor in Syria. He was briefly involved with coordinating between the Russian military and the so-called separatist republics in 2014 before being replaced due to a number of failures in his role. You can read our investigation identifying Tkachev as “Delfin”, along with his biography and role in eastern Ukraine in 2014, below:

Oleg Vladimirovich Ivannikov, also known as “Orion” and “Andrey Ivanovich Laptev”, is a senior GRU officer who previously served as the Minister of Defense of the breakaway self-declared state of South Ossetia from 2006 – 2008. Ivannikov is a key figure in the downing of MH17 due to his central role in the procurement and deployment of a Buk missile launcher in July 2014. He was also one of the GRU’s leading figures in organizing state-sponsored actions with the Wagner private military company, tied to Russian billionaire Yevgeny Prigozhin. Along with his voice being intercepted by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) related to MH17, his distinctly high-pitched voice has also been recorded speaking to Wagner CEO Dmitry Utkin.


Check for Yourself

You can listen to recorded speech fragments from “Orion” and “Delfin” below, to compare their voices:

Nikolai Tkachev (Delfin):


Oleg Ivannikov (Orion / Andrey Ivanovich):



Preview: Episode 5 Summary

Hear the moment when MH17 was spotted by separatist rebels on the ground in Eastern Ukraine, who decided to shoot a missile at a plane they hadn’t bothered formally identifying.

Listen in on a chilling batch of intercepted calls made on the day of the downing. In a sea of disinformation, half-truths and outright lies, these calls offer a raw, unfiltered account of the moments before and after the shooting. Eliot uses this haunting collection of conversations between the separatist rebels to piece together an accurate picture of what really happened that fateful day when 298 people lost their lives.

Hear the reaction of family members whose loved ones died as a result of the tragic, careless and murderous actions of the men whose voices are captured on these secretly recorded calls.

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  1. Feodor Mihailovitch

    Well done everyone at Bellingcat as the truth must be told . I am constantly amazed at the gutlessness of these people ! Even Andropov had the courage to admit in 1983 that the Soviets had shot down a Korean airliner that had strayed into their airspace but these criminals from the DNR simply have no conscience….

  2. Parvus Pulchrus

    Well done, the only one crucial question remains. Why exactly MH17 and not Virgin Atlantic or Air India or other from many other aircrafts which passed over the BUK Tellar thi day. Who gave order FIRE NOW and on which information was this command based?

    • Cactus

      The flight crew of MH17 asked for and received permission to deviate north of the normal airlane to avoid thunderstorms. MH17 had just reentered the airlane when it was hit by the Russian Army Buk. The Russian proxy force was using a spotter to identify targets and mistook MH17 as a target perhaps and likely because it wasn’t on the busy airlane for that short period of time.

      • KimmoK

        “The Russian proxy force was using a spotter to identify targets and mistook MH17 as a target perhaps and likely because it wasn’t on the busy airlane for that short period of time.”

        The sky was nearly full of air corridors, so, that kind of “enemy” detection vs civilians is 100% futile.

        (Maximum deviation was about 14km from the center of flight corridor.)

        But we know more when/if the crew is interviewed one day.

        • Parvus Pulchrus

          The crew of BUK TELLAR will be dead with probablity 99.99%. It isRussian style and these guy were a mission critical whitnesses….
          But how it happened, that ATC in Kiew was not warned about BUK occurence nearby corridor? Also part of investigation?

          • Cactus

            Parvus, yes. Your question was covered extensively in the Dutch Safety Board report. There was no previous activity targeting airliners. The Buk was new to the hostilities.

          • KimmoK

            “But how it happened, that ATC in Kiew was not warned about BUK occurence nearby corridor? Also part of investigation?”

            Possibly by some other investigation.
            JIT+DSB indicate the launcher crossed the border in the morning hours, SBU got info about it.
            There was some 12h time to do a NOTAM to stop flights.

            To be on the safe side, flights should have been stopped in June.

  3. Mike

    Why isn’t anyone talking about the Ukrainian tactic of hiding military aircraft from SAM’s by using civilian air corridors. A number of Ukrainian military aircraft were shot down in the early days of the insurgency, which prompted them to start using civilian airliners as cover. This worked but led to MH17 being mistakenly shot down. I’m not disputing that the “rebels” were backed by Russia, but that doesn’t change the fact that Ukrainians caused this tragedy by effectively using civilian airliners as human shields. Once they started doing that, an accident like MH17 was guaranteed to happen eventually.

    • KimmoK

      Think for a second.

      Planes were shot down with manpads that reach ~5km.
      Ukraine operated with slower than passenger aircrafts, flyin below 7km.

      How/why could/would UA use civilian planes as cover vs manpads?

    • KimmoK

      How would you use “civilian airliners as cover” with SU25 that can reach to 5km with weapons?
      Or with AN26 that can reach 7,5km?

      You know airliners typically fly above 10km and above 900km/h.
      (AN26 and SU25 fly slower than those)

      Then why would you take cover (of a faster plane flying 3km higher than you), when rebels had weapons reaching only about 5km?

      Can you imagine how impossible it is to plan a bombing flight according to civilian ariliner routes & traffic?

      Pretty futile and silly idea.

      Rebels/Russia did not care about civilians flying above. Then someone delivered a BUK.


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