Ukraine Liveblog Day 150: Malaysian Passenger Jet Shot Down Over Ukraine

July 17, 2014

Yesterday’s liveblog can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

Please help The Interpreter to continue providing this valuable information service by making a donation towards our costs.

View Ukraine: April, 2014 in a larger map
For links to individual updates click on the timestamps.

Below we will be making regular updates so check back often.

Video Shows Buk Missile System In Range Of Malaysian Jet

This video, shared with us by one of our readers but originally uploaded to the Russian social network Vkontakte, appears to show a vehicle, part of the Buk SAM System, moving through the streets of Snezhnoye earlier today.

That video has been geolocated. The conclusion is that it is in the center of Snezhnoye (map) and the vehicle appears to be headed south. This matches a geolocation done by the blog Ukraine at War.

This location is approximately 16 kilometers from the site of today’s crash (see our new interactive map of the locations surrounding the crash site). Depending on the missile loaded into the Buk system, the system could engage an aircraft that was at a minimum of between 2 and 4 kilometers away and at a maximum of between 24 and 50 kilometers away that was flying at a maximum altitude of between 11km and 25km. We know that the aircraft was flying at rough 10km high, so if the missile was launched from Snezhnoye, the aircraft would have been in range with even the worst Buk missile equipped.

Associated Press journalists also spotted the Buk SAM system in the town of Snezhnoye (also known as Snizhne) today:

Igor Sutyagin, a research fellow in Russian studies at the Royal United Services Institute, said both Ukrainian and Russian forces have SA-17 missile systems – also known as Buk ground-to-air launcher systems.

Rebels had bragged recently about having acquired Buk systems.

Sutyagin said Russia had supplied separatists with military hardware but had seen no evidence “of the transfer of that type of system from Russia.”

Earlier Thusday (sic), AP journalists saw a launcher that looked like a Buk missile system near the eastern town of Snizhne, which is held by the rebels.

In the report above they mention that the rebels were bragging about capturing Buk missiles. On June 29th there were articles published to this effect, but the stories seem to only be carried by Russian state-operated news agencies. The original source for the story appears to be TV Zvezda, the news agency for the Russian Ministry of Defense. It’s not clear that the separatists ever captured Buks from the Ukrainian military or whether these stories were a front to explain how the rebels obtained such advance weaponry.

Earlier today we also posted a translation of a phone call leaked by the Ukrainian security services (SBU), reportedly between the separatist military commander Igor Bezler and Vasily Geranin, who is described as a colonel in the Russian Federation’s GRU (main military intelligence). In the audio, the men say that the missile was fired from the Chernukhino roadblock, a separatist position between 20 and 24 kilometers north of the crash site, perhaps even less depending on the exact location of the checkpoint (map). Presumably, as the aircraft was traveling west to east, the aircraft would have been even closer to this checkpoint than that distance when it was originally hit. Regardless, 24km is still within the range of the Buk, even if armed with its lowest-capability missile.

At the end of the day, we cannot confirm this audio. We do not know whether the weapon in Snezhnoye was moving toward Chernukhino. What we do know is that any Buk between Chernukhino, Snezhnoye, and nearby Torez, would have been more than capable of knocking out a passenger plane, and Buk missiles were spotted both by residents and by journalists.

UN Spokesman Killed In Malaysian Airlines Crash
The spokesman for the UN World Health Organization (WHO) was reportedly among the dead in today’s Ukraine.

Huffington Post reports:

Glenn Thomas, a staff person at the World Health Organization, died in the crash of Malaysia Airlines MH 17, according to Dr. Haileyesus Getahun, Coordinator of the Global TB Program at the WHO.

Buk Spotted In Streets Of Snezhnoye Near Site Of Plane Crash?

A reader shares with us this picture reportedly taken today in Snezhnoye (or Snizhe), the town where a surface-to-air missile may have hit MH17 today.


For comparison, an image of the BUK missile system posted on Wikipedia:


The original news report appears to have been posted before the incident reportedly took place today.

The proposed location of where the picture was taken appears to be
wrong, however, and we have not geolocated the image, though we continue
to work to do so.

Another alleged picture of the Buk in Ukraine:

We’ll work to learn more about these reports.
Another Conversation Between Separatists on Malaysian Airplane Leaked by SBU

Another conversation has been added on an updated YouTube video to those allegedly leaked from separatist leaders earlier by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) today regarding the downed Malaysian airliner.

We previously translated the first two here. The Interpreter has a translation of the third one:

Fighter: Regarding that plane downed in the area of Snezhny-Torez.

Mykola Kozitsin: Yes.

Fighter: It turned out to be a passenger flight. It fell in the area of Grabovo, there is a sea of corpses of women and children. Now the Cossacks are looking at all this.

Fighter: They’re broadcasting on TV that this is apparently an AN-26, a Ukrainian, a transport plane, but “Malaysian Airlines” is written on it. What was it doing on the territory of Ukraine?

M. Kozitsin: That means they were bringing in spies, I don’t know. You see.

Fighter: Yes, sir.

M. Kozitsin: What the f**k were they flying in here for, there’s a war on.

Fighter: I understand.

Separatists Say They’ll Cooperate With International Investigation Into Malaysian Airlines Crash
Russian Spring, a pro-separatist information portal, had the following statement from self-proclaimed prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), Aleksandr Boroday (translated by The Interpreter):

DPR Prime Minister Aleksandr Boroday has officially confirmed the fact of the crash of the passenger plane near Torez. An investigative group from the DPR’s Prosecuter General is working at the scene of the crash. The DPR is interested in an objective investigation of the incident and is prepared to permit foreign investigators to the scene of the crash.

Aleksandr Boroday believes that this is a provocation by Ukrainian forces. The DPR does not have the anti-aircraft weapons capable of downing a passenger plane flying at cruising altitude. The “ceiling”  of our anti-aircraft weapons is 2.5 km. The cruising altitude of a passenger flight is significantly higher.

Moreoever, at the LPR press service, commenting on reports from the Ukrainian authorities on the possible involvement of the imlitia in the downing of the Malaysian airline, they reported that the LPR army does not have the anti-aircraft BUK system capable of reaching such targets.

Putin Blames Ukraine For The Downing Of Malaysian Aircraft
US Says Malaysian Plane Was ‘Shot Down, Blown Out Of The Sky’

The Washington Post reports:

Vice President Biden said he spoke with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko for about a half hour regarding what he called “a very tragic circumstance.”

Biden said the plane was “shot down, not an accident, blown out of the sky.”

Speaking shortly before a U.S. official confirmed to The Post that the plane had been shot out of the sky by a surface-to-air missile, Biden added: “We don’t have all the details yet.”

Biden said the Obama administration is concerned about reports that U.S. citizens were on board the plane. “We’re now working every minute to try to confirm those reports as I speak,” he said.

US Confirms Surface To Air Missile Downed Malaysian Passenger Plane
Breaking news — details when we have them…
Ukrainian Intelligence Leaks Separatists’ Conversation About Downed Airplane

The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has uploaded a Youtube video with a recording of a conversation that purports to be between Igor Bezler (Bes, or “Demon”), a commander of the pro-Russian separatists, and Vasily Geranin, who is described as a colonel in the Russian Federation’s GRU (main military intelligence), at 16:40,  and a second conversation between two pro-Russian separatists nicknamed “Major” and “Greek”.

We have no confirmation of the authenticity of these recordings at all, and in general such leaks are hard to confirm. We do recognize Bezler’s voice, however, from many other videos he himself has made and from press conferences for the “Donetsk People’s Republic.”

The Interpreter has translated the conversation:

Geranin: I understand, shit.
Bezler: A plane has just been shot down. Sapper’s Group. It fell outside of Enakievo.
Geranin: The pilots. Where are the pilots?
Bezler: They went to search and photograph the downed plane. It’s smoking…
Geranin: How many minutes ago?
Bezler: Somewhere around 30 minutes ago.

[after terrorists realize they have downed the plane]

Greek: Yes, Major.
so the Chernukhino guys shot down the plane. From the Chernukhino
roadblock. The Cossacks, who were stationed at Chernukhino.
Greek: Who?
Mayor: The Chernukhino roadblock, the Cossacks who are stationed at Chernukhino.
Greek: Yes, Major.
The plane fell into pieces in the air, in the area of the
Petropavlovsk coal mine. The first “200”, they found the first “200”
[“200 is the Russian term referring to dead bodies–The Interpreter]. It’s civilian.
Greek: So there are 200s?
Major: Yes. Civilians.
Greek: So what have you got?
Major: In short, a super-heavy civilian craft.
Greek: Understood. Are there a lot of people there?
Major: It’s totally f****d. The pieces are falling right into yards.
Greek: What kind of aircraft?
I haven’t figured it out yet. I haven’t been near the main part yet. I
only started to see where the first bodies were falling. There are
remains there of the internal struts, chairs, bodies.
Greek: Understood. Are there any weapons?
Mayor: Nothing at all. Civilian things, pieces of medicines, towels, toilet paper.
Greek: Are there any passports?
Mayor: Yes. There’s an Indonesian student. From the University of Thompson, shit.

There isn’t any “University of Thompson” in Indonesia, so we’re looking into whether this could be a reference to Thompson Rivers University in Canada as they have a joint program with Indonesia.

Analyzing Videos Of the Plane Crash
Here is a video which claims to show the moment of the crash of the Malaysian Passenger jet today:

A second video where the aircraft is already on the ground:

This video was reportedly taken nearby – here are excerpts from what the people in the video are saying (translated by The Interpreter):

– “Look, you can see the fragments flying, the black over there.”
– “See, the black smoke, beyond the refuse pit, where Progress is.”
– “The plane exploded and fell.”
– “A guy shot at it and it fell.”

“Progress” is the coal mine where the plane reportedly crashed.  “A guy shot at it” is an interesting remark.

This video is interesting. It reportedly shows debris falling from the sky long after impact:

All these videos are still unverified, but all of them appear consistent, and so far we see no reason to believe that any of them is fake or shows a different incident.

Now would be a great time to discuss what a Buk missile system (which, as we’ve discussed below, is the key suspect IF the plane was shot down) and what it actually does to an aircraft.

The Buk is an advanced surface-to-air missile designed to intercept jet aircraft, cruise missiles, drones, or even smart bombs falling from a high altitude. It uses radar, not heat detection, to find and kills its targets. It typically requires multiple vehicles, not just the missile launcher, to provide radar guidance for the missile.

The missiles use a radar proximity fuse to detonate when it is close to its target, unlike its smaller heat-seeking cousins which detonate upon impacting the engines of the vehicle being targeted. This means that the weapon does not necessarily hit the fuel cells or engines, which may not create the kind of in-the-air fireball that many are looking for.

However, we also have not seen definitive video that shows the plane exploding in mid-air. Also, many on TV have speculated that there is a lack of an exhaust trail typically produced by a SAM as it travels to its target. Without additional videos these condemnations are simply ignorant. The plane was reportedly hit while it was 10 kilometers off the ground — that’s over 33,000 feet. The plane would have been traveling at several hundred miles per hour, and would have taken a very long time to fall to the earth. Without a video of the actual midair explosion, we would not expect to see the missile trail at all, especially since by the time we see the wreckage near the ground the wind may have dissipated the missile contrails.

We’ll continue looking for and analyzing video as it comes in.

Separatists Bragged About Capturing Missile Defence System

On June 29th, ITAR-TASS, the Russian state-operated news agency, reported that the separatists had indeed captured an air-defense base:

Self-defence forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic have taken control over a missile defence army unit equipped with Buk missile defence systems, the press service of the Donetsk People’s Republic told Itar-Tass on Sunday.
So far, no details are available about the number and condition of the missile systems taken over by the self-defence forces. The press service refused to comment.

As we’ve been reporting, however, the only news agencies which have this report are Russian state-operated, and the origin of the report may be TV Zvezda, the news agency for the Russian Ministry of Defense.

The claim that the separatists captured the base, the claim that the base had a Buk, and the claim that the separatists captured the Buk are all unconfirmed.

Journalist Claims They Saw Separatists With a Buk SAM System

Roman Bochkala, journalist for TV Inter in Ukraine, had this comment on his Facebook (translated by The Interpreter):

I urge you to pay attention!!! There is information in the news about the movement of the BUK. Supposedly the passenger plane could have been shot down today from this system. Here’s the news from Donetsk Region. Information from local residents. Today the separatists seized the STO auto center at No. 108 Shchorsa St., and it looks like a department of the water canal.

Near the children’s store they have set up firing positions. Today at 11:25, a column went through the town of Zurges heading toward Shakhtyorsk with: 1) a Chevrolet Niva 2) 3 tanks 3) a Renault Traffic 4) a Volkswagen Transporter 5) a ZIL with people with the top down. Armed terrorists numbering about 100-150 were observed in Lutugino.

They are deployed in two groups. The first is in the very center in the dormitory of a children’s clinic. The second is “beyond the [civilian] quarters” near a red-brick bank under construction. At 12:10 pm, a missile system (looking like a BUK) passed through on a trailer plus two cars for cover through Torez toward Snezhnoye. In Marinke, the terrorists are situated in the post office and Ukrtelekom (47.939448, 37.501337) and Emergencies Ministry (47.938623, 37.499827). They drove the missile system on the trailer plus the two cars through Torez, in the direction of Snezhnoye, at 12:10. It looked like a BUK. The top was draped over. At 13:10 three tanks and a minibus passed through Torez to Snezhnoye.

All of this is unconfirmed, though the source has proven reliable.  The claim also matches a scenario that could have brought this aircraft down with a Buk. AP reported earlier that one of their journalists also spotted a Buk in eastern Ukraine, though we have no additional details on this claim.

What Is The Buk SAM System, Why Is It Important, And Do Ukraine’s Separatists Have One?

What is the Buk surface-to-air missile system, and why is it important?

The key issue at play here is altitude. Today’s flight, MH17, the Malaysian airlines passenger jet that crashed in Ukraine, may have been shot down. But so far it seems that it was flying at approximately 10,000 meters when it went missing. That is far above the maximum intercept height for surface-to-air missiles which have previously been recorded in the hands of separatists, namely the Igla shoulder-fired rocket, and the Strela-10 vehicle (which, by the way, evidence suggests was supplied to the separatists by Russia on July 2-3).

Several weapons, including the Buk, are capable of hitting aircraft at this height. But so far, none of those weapons have been documented as being in the hands of separatists. Not only had it never been filmed or photographer, there were never any reports of the Ukrainian military losing such a weapon.

However, on July 14th we ran a story that one news agency, TV Zvezda, had run a report that a Buk was captured by separatists who stole it from the Ukrainian military. The problem, however, is that TV Zvezda is the official news agency for the Russian Ministry of Defense, and they are the only source for this story. In other words, if the Russian military were going to give the separatists a Buk, they would need to plant a story about how the separatists got the Buk in the first place, and they’d likely use TV Zvezda to do it.

Today, AP reporters did see a Buk in eastern Ukraine — the first time one has been seen. And now we have this:

But an intrepid microblogger noticed something odd a few days ago — the press officer for the separatists actually tweeted a picture of a Buk that was reportedly under their control:

Sure enough, that page has been deleted:


Could Pro-Russian Separatists Have Shot Down the Malaysian Airliner?

There are some reports that Col. Igor Strelkov, commander of the pro-Russian separatists in the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic,” is taking credit for downing a second Ukrainian airplane today, not realizing that in fact it was the Malaysian airliner.

The Interpreter has translated the dispatch from Strelkov’s VKontakte page today:

“In the area of Torez, we have just shot down an AN-26 airplane, it is scattered about somewhere by the Progress coal mine.

We warned them – don’t fly ‘in our sky.’

Here is a video confirmation of the latest ‘bird drop.’

The bird fell beyond the pit refuse heap, it did not damage the residential sector.

Civilians were not hurt.

There is also information about a second downed airplane, apparently an SU.”

 Strelkov also posts two videos with his dispatch:

The page in VKontakte has now been removed, but we saved a screen capture:


Graphic Live Feed From Site of MH17 Crash
The footage is graphic, and live, coming from LifeNews, a news agency that is closely tied to Russian security services. The footage is consistent with other news agencies reporting from the scene of the crash.
First Images Of Plane Emerging
We’ve just spoken with KCBS who says that Reuters reporters are seeing the wreckage — and the bodies — of the downed aircraft. Now LifeNews, a Russian news agency very closely linked with Russia’s security apparatus (and the Russian-backed separatists) is posting images of the wreckage:
Location of Malaysian Plane Fragments Established
According to a source in Ukrainian law enforcement, fragments from the downed Malaysian airliner have been located in the village of Grabovo in Donetsk Region, Interfax and reported.

“The pieces of the airplane are in Grabovo, which is completely controlled by the separatists,” says a law-enforcer. According to the source, it is not known if Ukrainian rescue services have been given access to the site of the crash.

Confirmation That Advanced BUK Anti-Aircraft Missile Spotted In Eastern Ukraine

An update from the AP on a topic we’ve been reporting — that a BUK surface-to-air missile may have shot down this Malaysian aircraft:

Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said on his Facebook page the plane was flying at an altitude of 10,000 meters (33,000 feet) when it was hit by a missile fired from a Buk launcher. A similar launcher was seen by Associated Press journalists near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne earlier Thursday. The Buk missile system can fire missiles up to an altitude of 22,000 meters (72,000 feet).

Malaysia Airlines said on its Twitter feed that it “has lost contact of MH17 from Amsterdam. The last known position was over Ukrainian airspace. More details to follow.”

Ukraine Has Been Claiming Separatists Have Advanced Missiles For A Week

Three days ago we posted an analysis of another Ukrainian aircraft that was shot down over eastern Ukraine. In that analysis we note that the Ukrainian government said the aircraft was flying well above the maximum effective range for any weapon the separatists have ever been documented as having possessed.

However, we also note that there are other possibilities. Below we are re-posting an excerpted version of that update:

July 14:

The Russian separatists have been spotted with many anti-aircraft missiles. Most of them are MANPADS, shoulder-fired rockets that are quite effective. The main weapon in this category is the 9K38 Igla. But that weapon is only capable of hitting planes that are traveling at no more than approximately 3.5 kilometers (11,000 feet). Recently, we’ve been tracking a weapon which very well may have crossed the border from Russia into Ukraine on July 2-3rd. This is the advanced 9K35 Strela-10. But even this weapon has a maximum intercept range of about 3500 meters.

[The Ukrainian government says the aircraft that was shot down was flying at 6500 meters.]

6500 meters would be well out of the operational range for both the Igla and the Strela. The 9K330 Tor missile system is capable of hitting targets in roughly this range (about 6,000 meters). The K12 Kub is capable of hitting targets at 14,000 meters, but there is no indication that the separatists have either of these weapons. 

The  9k37 Buk is a weapon with a range of up to 14000 meters, but has never been seen in the hands of separatists. The Russian network TV Zvezda, the news network for the Russian military, did report that a Buk fell to separatist hands on June 29th. However, is it possible that TV Zvezda was “seeding” the story, planting an explanation for why the separatists would have such an advanced weapons system? After all, they are the only source reporting this story to our knowledge, there are no pictures or videos of the separatists possessing this missile system, nor have we been able to tie the claims made by TV Zvezda back to a specific incident that may have resulted in the loss of such a weapon. Just one day later Ukraine launched its new anti-terrorism operation, capturing significant separatist territory and flushing out a lot of the separatist vehicles, and yet no 9k37 Buks were spotted during this time to our knowledge.

It’s also worth noting, however, that the claims that the aircraft was flying at 6500 meters has also not been confirmed.

Our investigation will continue.

Pro-Russian Separatists Deny Responsibility for Downed Malaysian Boeing

The self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic,” the pro-Russian separatist movement in southeastern Ukraine has denied involvement in the downing of the Malaysian Boeing, reports.

“We do not have any idea what this is about and who shot down the plane. We’re heading there now to investigate everything independently,” Tatyana Dvoryadkina, co-chair of the DPR told

Malaysian Passenger Plane Confirmed Missing, Ukraine Says It Was Shot Down
More rolling updates:
Ukraine Interior Ministry Says Malaysian Passenger Jet Shot Down In Eastern Ukraine
More Details On Passenger Jet Reportedly Downed In Ukraine

We are trying to sort this story, but all details here are very much unconfirmed. For now, we will post any information that is being distributed that may seem relevant, and we will try to confirm details as we get them.

First, we were reporting that a Ukrainian military jet was reportedly shot down in Torez. Is it possible that the report was mistaken, and that the jet was really this MAlaysian passenger jet? A possible clue:

Translation: For some reason I’ve got a bad feeling — they says there were medications in that flight, humanitarian aid foreigners? seems like…

More information on the flight that has reportedly crashed:

That flight path travels very close or perhaps directly over Torez (map).

Ukrainian Pravda claims it has independent confirmation of the crash (translated by The Interpreter):

“At 16:20 communication disappeared with the Malaysian Airlines passenger flight which went from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur at a height of 10,000 meters over the territory of Ukraine within the bounds of the international corridor,” said the source.

“It fell in the area of the Grabovo checkpoint,” he added.

10,000 meters? That would take an advanced anti-aircraft missile to shoot down. Ukraine has been reporting for a week now that either Russia is shooting down Ukrainian aircraft, or Russia has provided the separatists with a new and highly advanced missile system.

Malaysian Passenger Jet Reportedly Crashes In Ukraine — And Rumors Spread That It Was Shot Down
Some breaking news:

The Interfax report, translated by The Interpreter:

A Boeing 777 from the Malaysian airlines fell on the territory of Ukraine not far from the Russian border, Interfax reported, citing a source close to aviation.

“The Boeing of the Malaysian airlines, a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, began to descend 50 km before entering the air space of Russia, subsequently it was discovered burning on the ground on the territory of Ukraine,” said the source.

According to the source, there were 280 passengers and 15 crew on board.

The plane should have crossed the Russian border at approximately 17:25 Moscow time.

But the rumors are already spreading that the flight was shot down. So far, the rumors appear to spring from the fact that so many Ukrainian aircraft have been shot down in the last week, and that the reported jet crash is so close to the Ukrainian border.

We have to stress that all of the following claims and videos are unconfirmed.

It’s important to note that we were already reporting a plane that was reportedly shot down in this area earlier today. That aircraft was reportedly a Ukrainian military jet, but those reports have also not yet been confirmed. It’s possible that the reports of that jet and the Malaysian passenger jet are being confused, so we will continue to try to sort through the noise.
Ukraine’s Interior Minister Advocates Creation of ‘Ministry of Propaganda’

We’ve spent plenty of time explaining that the Russian media landscape has changed dramatically in the last year, and even more dramatically in the last 6 months. The Russian government has taken significantly more control over the media landscape, and Russian news is more propaganda than it’s been since the end of the Cold War.

Now, Ukraine’s Interior Minister says they need a propaganda ministry too (translated by The Interpreter).

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov believes it is necessary to create a Ministry of Propaganda in the government which will take up explanatory work with the public.

“To help (those residents who have fallen under the influence of foreign propagana–Interfact) — I agree. This has to be done not just as an option. This is a serious part of war. The war for minds. We have to create a Ministry of Propaganda. And I’m not shy about this,” the minister wrote on his Facebook page in a discussion with users about how to “de-mine
the minds” of Ukrainians who have become subject to foreign propaganda.

More Jets Shot Down In Ukraine – Kiev Blames Russian Military
Kiev claims that a jet shot down last night was hit by a missile which appears to have come from a Russian jet. The BBC reports:

Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council, said an Su-25 ground attack plane was downed on Wednesday evening.

There was no comment from Moscow but rebels in eastern Ukraine say they shot down two Su-25 jets on Wednesday…

Ukraine’s defence ministry said: “It is likely that [the hit] was carried out by air-to-air rockets from the Russian air force which were patrolling the border in a pair.”

It added that a second jet had been hit by a portable surface-to-air missile, but that pilot was also unscathed and managed to land his plane safely, AP news agency reported.

That’s right — besides the planes that were attacked yesterday, there are reports of another aircraft that has been shot down today.

Russian Media Says Ukraine Fired GRAD Rockets At Itself

Some of our staff, including managing editor James Miller, have been geolocating conflict videos for years. But it is very rare that so much evidence comes to the surface surrounding one single incident. At the end of the day, the fact that there were so many camera angles showing a location where GRAD rockets were being launched we were able to triangulate them to find the approximate launching point. The area is far enough away from the border that we estimate the chances of these rockets originating from Ukraine, not from Russia as we have said, is zero. There is no doubt that the videos show a GRAD rocket battery launching several strikes from inside Russian territory — rockets that were fired toward Ukraine.

Today we located the position of a Ukrainian military unit that was reportedly hit by GRADS. Even our in our preliminary, and very rough, analysis of where the GRAD rockets launched from Russia were headed, the area where the soldiers were reportedly hit with GRADs is within our predicted cone of fire. We are currently revising our cone of fire based on additional videos, and that places those soldiers in the direct line of fire.

All of this makes the Russian state-controlled media headlines on this topic even more interesting.

NATO Commander: ‘Russia Engaging In Military Action Against Ukraine’
Citing a video geolocated by The Interpreter yesterday in a series of reports that have now been cited by Foreign Policy, Business Insider and others, NATO Commander General Philip Breedlove is calling this evidence of Russian “engaging in military action against Ukraine.”
Reports of Ukrainian Soldiers Receiving Medical Treatment in Russia Following Attack

The Russian, state-owned news agency RIA Novosti reports that 15 Ukrainian servicemen are receiving medical treatment in Russia after they were forced to seek help across the border, having been attacked by separatist fighters.

They were reportedly taken to a hospital in the town of Gukovo (near the site of the Russian Grad rocket launcher filmed firing towards Ukrainian territory):

They report, citing a statement by the regional branch of Russia’s Federal Border Guard Service:

“Fifteen wounded have been placed in hospitals in the town of Gukovo,” the service said in a statement.

The wounded were transferred to the Russian side on emergency request by Ukrainian border guards in late afternoon at the Chervonopartyzansk border crossing connecting Ukraine’s Luhansk Region and Russia’s Rostov Region.

A representative of the Russian Health Ministry told RIA Novosti that two other Ukrainian border guards are to be operated on after they were wounded as a result of a shelling. One officer reportedly received injuries to his abdomen, while the second one has severe splinter wounds and burns. Both are in a critical condition.

Vasily Malayev, a spokesman with the Federal Security Bureau (FSB) in the Rostov region, said Russian border guards at the Kuibyshevo border crossing were informed about two their Ukrainian colleagues in need of urgent medical treatment at about 2 pm Moscow time (10:00 GMT). They were immediately transported to a local clinic in the city of Kuibyshev.

As of 7:30 pm Moscow time (15:30 GMT), one of the Ukrainian servicemen has been undergoing surgery, Malayev said.

Russia’s 1st Channel had a news report on the injured soldiers:

However Vsevolod Filimonenko, a Ukrainian journalist based in Lugansk, described events somewhat differently in a Facebook post (translated by The Interpreter):

Today, the Ukrainian 72nd border brigade made up of 15 soldiers is located in the border area of Lugansk Region. They were loading corpses into a refrigerator truck. At that time, LPR fighters began to shell our soldiers from Grads. Our soldiers managed to retreat into cover, but five sustained heavy injuries even so. The shelling did not stop, they had to retreat, the terrorists forced the Ukrainian soldiers with shell fire on to the territory of the RF, where FSB agents were waiting for them. The agents arrested all of them to a man, and then took them to the hospital, in Russia’s Gukovo. Now, the hospital is surrounded by RF police, and dozens of Russian journalists are in the hospital. The ATO leadership has gotten in touch with Russia’s border service on the matter of returning the border guards of the Ukrainian side, but they were advised to appeal to the supreme commander of the RF armed forces, and hung up the phone.

Note that his account describes the same Mechanised Infantry Brigade as the Ukrainska Pravda report we posted earlier. If so, then the unit would have been attacked from both sides by Grad fire. Whether or not this is the case or the account is confused has not been verified. 

Filimonenko’s account does suggest Russian coordination with the separatists regardless. It should be noted that the Russian Federal Border Service is now part of the FSB, which could offer an alternative explanation for the description of “FSB agents”. We have yet to hear an official response to these claims from the Ukrainian government.

Ukrainian Soldiers Report Being Shelled by Russian Grads

Ukrainska Pravda reports that a soldier from the Ukrainian 72nd Mechanised Infantry Brigade has described a Grad rocket attack on the units positions. The location of the soldiers, near Krasnopartizansk (known in Ukrainian as Chervonopartizansk), is well within range of the Grad battery firing from Gukovo that we reported on last night.

Here is a map showing the relative locations of both the launcher and the approximate area in which the 72nd Brigade was deployed:


And here is a projection we made yesterday of the likely cone of fire from the Grad, with Krasnopartizansk highlighted:


Here is their report (translated by The Interpreter): 

Soldiers from the 72nd Mechanized Brigade who are defending the area of the border with Russia in Lugansk Region have asked for help. A soldier of the brigade Dmitry who is at the scene of the events spoke to Ukrainska Pravda.

“Just now, about 16:00 [13:00GMT] from the side of Russia, a Grad flew in the direction of the location of the first battalion, approximately in the area of Krasnopartizansk,” he said.

“If it’s a Grad, that means we can expect a mortar launcher. They are shooting at us like a target. Nobody is supporting us. It turns out we have no aviation in the army, nor artillery, we’re told to dig in and wait every night,” Dmitry complained.

He said his unit was forced to leave.

“We asked to change position and leave but combat told us to say in place. The order to retreat came only when 15-20 people had lay down,” he said.

“My unit is now forced to stay in the dead zone between Ukraine and Russia. We left, because they were bombarding us there. This has continued about a week. They are shelling us out of there. And the brigade commander tells the press that everything is fine, that there’s help. Although we don’t even have any water,” complained Dmitry.

“Every night there is shelling from Grads. At first a drone scout flies by and marks the territory. Then the shelling starts on those positions. This is not an infantry war, we don’t even see the real enemy,’ he said.

“Just now a drone flew over, that means we can expect a strike. If they dare to bomb even here, I don’t know…”

According to Dmitry, they are shooting not only from the direction of Russia but from the direction of the separatists. “They also bombard us with Grads and modern laser-guided anti-tank missiles,” said Dmitry.

He added that the 72nd brigade is spread over the territory along the border.

The 79th brigade is in a similar situation near Izvarino. They are shelled by grads and mortar launchers and their crossing is destroyed.

“If their crossing is destroyed, the soldiers won’t survive,” Gromadsky was told over the phone by the sister of one of the fighters of the 79th air mobile brigade.

“The 79th brigade has one cannon made in 1962, and two anti-aircraft weapons were brought in, that’s all they have to shoot with,” she added.

Ukrainska Pravda is attempting to get a comment from the Anti-Terrorist Center.