Ukraine Liveblog Day 151: Who Shot Down MH17?

July 18, 2014
Wreckage of flight MH17 yesterday. Photo: Maxim Zmeyev / Reuters

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

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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.

Was Col. Strelkov’s Dispatch About a ‘Downed Ukrainian Plane’ Authentic?

As we reported 17 July,
the post that originally appeared in a group called “Strelkov’s Dispatches” on the popular Russian social network VKontakte (VK) showed that the pro-Russian separatists were boasting
about having downed yet another Ukrainian airplane — or maybe even two —
just as they had done on 14 July with a powerful anti-aircraft system in Krasnodon.

As this apparent admission of the downing of the plane seemed to be a
smoking gun in the tragedy of the Malaysian airline, it has come under
much scrutiny as possibly a “fake” or just a blog post of an unofficial
Strelkov fan group that might be prone to erroneous postings.

Yet the post was real and duplicated on many pro-separatist outlets
as well as Russian and Ukrainian media sites, despite being deleted
later; we have found multiple examples where it is still on line, and
the Christian Science Monitor found it on the Wayback Machine.

And the VK group was not just a fan group — from our long observation of this group and other
Strelkov-related pages, we can say this
group’s posts have long been cited by regional media and have been corroborated by what Strelkov himself as said in person at press conferences.

Even more important, the very same talking points in “Strelkov’s
Dispatches” were independently used by separatists interviewed by
Russian state
media — and most of those article still remain online.

So with a bit of Google forensics of news stories still preserved as they were reported at the time, we can see that:

a) the “Strelkov Dispatches” VKontakte group is trusted and used
regularly by a variety of state and independent media and was used for
this story;

b) other separatist sources cited by the Russian state media, independent of the VK group, had the same version
of the “Ukrainian transport plane” story talking points as the
“Strelkov Dispatches,” and they were used as sources without any
reference to VK;

c) the eye-witnesses who reported the downing also made the presumption
that separatists downed the airplane — and this was also assumed by the
writers of the Russian state news stories.

For further example and analysis, read Was Col. Strelkov’s Dispatch about a Downed “Ukrainian Plane” Authentic?

Russian Propagandists Spreading More Disinformation — And It’s Working

In a separate analysis we discuss how the narrative presented by the Russian propaganda network RT, formerly ‘Russia Today,’ changed dramatically from one inflammatory hypothesis to the next. As RT shifted it’s narrative, so too did the pro-Kremlin trolls who haunt Twitter and who often appear on RT as ‘experts.’

One such ‘expert’ is RT’s chief political analyst Mark Sleboda. First Sleboda claimed that this was a ‘false flag,’ a Ukrainian surface-to-air missile which shot down the aircraft. Then Sleboda changed his analysis as RT changed its analysis. This incident was actually a failed assassination attempt on Putin, who was, according to RT, flying ‘almost the same route’ as the crashed flight MH17.

All of this flip-flopping and disinformation ultimately drove one RT journalist to quit.

Well Sleboda is back with a new theory:


This matches exactly a claim which was made by “Carlos,” a fictional Spanish air traffic controller who does not work at all at Kiev airport, despite his claims. See our earlier update where we debunk the “Carlos” story here.

So this is all disinformation… but it’s working:

Separatists Tampering With Crash Site, Looting From The Dead

CNN and other networks are reporting that not only are the separatists looting, but that they may be tampering with evidence. Since the international community is calling for a full investigation of the crash site, any tampering of evidence could hinder that investigation.

The Guardian goes even further. As we reported earlier, the separatists who at first said that they would cooperate with an international investigation are now blocking the OSCE observers, actually firing a warning shot at their convoy.

The US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, blamed a surface-to-air missile fired by rebels in eastern Ukraine and hinted that they might have had Russian technical help. The rebels are suspected of having used a Russian-built, vehicle-mounted Buk missile system to bring down MH17, killing all 298 passengers and crew. Power called for the crash site to be preserved. “All evidence must be undisturbed,” she said. “Russia needs to help make this happen.”

But hopes are not high. The OSCE was trying to gain access to one part of the large crash site but the commander of a rebel unit, known as Commander Glum, blocked them. After the warning shot, the OSCE convoy departed.

There is also confusion over the black boxes and other devices apparently salvaged from the plane. A rebel military commander initially said he was considering what to do with them, while another rebel leader, Aleksandr Borodai, contradicting his colleague, said the rebels had no black boxes or any other devices.

The Guardian also notes the sheer amount of Tweets, posts, and claims which have been deleted by the separatists. Their headline: Cover-up: Ukraine rebels destroying all links to MH17 air atrocity

Meanwhile there is evidence that the separatists may actually be moving bodies from the crash site (see update below).

Pro-Russian Separatists Reportedly Steal 36 Bodies from Malaysian Airliner Crash
Separatist fighters from the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DPR) have reportedly stolen 36 bodies of people killed  in the downing of the Malaysian airliner, reported.

The press service of the Donetsk Region State Administration made the announcement, citing eye-witnesses.

The Interpreter has translated the statement:

“After the end of of the active stage of work at the site of the tragedy, representatives of the DPR arrived at the village of Rassypnoye and stole 36 bodies of victims of the air crash. Armed fighters drove away rescue workers and took communication devices from most of them. They loaded the bodies into a truck like sacks. According to the fighters, they intend to take the bodies to Donetsk.”

We have no verification of the report, but the fact that the statement was made by a local state administrator adds a certain credibility to it.

Separatist Commander Complains Russian Military Assistance Will Be Hindered Now

Col. Igor Strelkov, defense minister of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” issued a further statement today on the downing of the Malaysian airliner as part of his battle reports published by “Strelkov’s Dispatches,” a VKontakte group which used the “Strelkov Reports” banner to signify that it is an authenticated statement directly from him.

Strelkov denied any involvement of separatist fighters in the downing of the Malaysian passenger plane and complained that the downing of MH17 means it will be much harder to get Russian aid for the separatists. He denied that he had received as many as 50 tanks from Russia.

The Interpreter has provided a translation:

“In the area of Popasnaya, nobody is ‘hurrying’ anywhere, although the shelling is really intensive. It’s the same outside of Lisichansk: terrorist shelling [by the Ukes] of industrial zones and residential quarters (unlike the Boeing, nobody writes about those). On the whole, the situation with the plane shot down due to the fault of the Ukes (it is precisely their fault, regardless of who really shot it down) has drastically worsened the prospects for Russian aid, and on the contrary, brought the henchmen closer to the long-dream support of NATO ‘peace-makers.’

The same scene is being repeated exactly as in 1992-1993 in Bosnia, when Slobodan Milosevic ultimately did not decide to provide full-fledged support to the Serbian insurgents…Does everyone remember the finale? The president mysteriously died in prison ahead of his time, and Serbia was humiliated and cut down to the very bone.

Commentary from Igor Ivanovich Strelkov

[How the news appeared blaming the Boeing crash on the militia]

Strelkov: First, no one admits that our people downed the plane. Second, everyone is certain that the Ukes downed the plane — because such vileness has already long been expected of them. Thirdly, ‘geopolitics’ is not characteristic of soldiers in trenches. They will feel the possible consequences of this brilliantly-conducted provocation…if they advance, of course.”

[On what is needed for victory of the DPR and LPR (Lugansk People’s Republic)]

Strelkov: I need a few more heavy artillery divisions and at least two or three dozen tanks…with them, and also with Truth and with God, it would be immeasurably easier to fight…

[On the St. George Crosses, symbol used by the separatists]

This is based exclusively on the World War II version. The banner is obligatory. The ribbon is exclusively St. George, since that is the Georgian Cross and not the ‘coal miners’ cross.” Suggestions on minor details an be accepted.

[On today’s session of the Security Council, where several times the statement was made about the supposed “50 tanks that Russia sent” to the militia. What do you say in that regard?”

Strelkov: I didn’t notice them for some reason…But even if [Russia] sent them, what is 50 tanks by comparison with 700-800 tanks used by the Ukes? And with virtually total absence of our own anti-tank artillery and with a very small number of heavily artillery — it is generally “symbolic” help.”

Pro-Russian Separatists’ BUK Geolocated in Torez

The picture of the BUK missile system said to be in the possession of pro-Russian separatists which we reported 17 July,
parked behind some stores in a town in southeastern Ukraine, has now
been geolocated by Aric Toler on Gagarin Street in Torez.

There was some confusion between the two towns of Torez and
Snezhnoye, which are about 12 km apart from each other, both of which
have been occupied by separatists with heavy artillery.

Original regional news reports were based on a Facebook post by Anton Gerashchenko,
an advisor to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, who said one of two BUKs
was parked “behind the Furshet in Snezhnoye.” Furshet is a Ukrainian
supermarket chain that has provided humanitarian assistance to the separatists. Then Information Resistance reported that the BUK was in Torez “near the Furshet.”

But there isn’t any Furshet store known to be in Torez, according to the company’s web site, so the theory was that the scene had to be in Snezhnoye. The eye-witnesses may have meant another supermarket chain or store.

Toller found a dash-cam video of a resident driving down Gagarin
Street in Torez that clearly shows two of the buildings there that match
the scene of the parked BUK — the store with the yellow awning and red
and green sign and the brown building with the white-striped edges and a
tall video banner:


The location can be seen on Wikimapia and Yandex maps:


Video Reportedly Shows SAM System With Missing Missiles

As we’ve been reporting in various updates all day, the Buk surface-to-air missile system is the main suspect in the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.

Now a video, which matches exactly eyewitness reports we encountered earlier today, reportedly shows a Buk missile system moving away from the area where it shot down the aircraft. But in the video the Buk is missing two missiles:

How the Kremlin’s Propaganda Outlet RT ‘Covered’ the Shooting Down of MH17
The Kremlin’s chief foreign propaganda outlet,, has gone into overdrive to respond to regional and international allegations that Malaysian Flight MH17 was shot down by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. But as our analyst Adam Holland has found, the pressure of the contradictory narratives have caused the Russian propagandists to scramble and trip up as they frantically try different concepts which then rapidly lose credibility:

In the morning, as their video showed the smoking wreckage of MH17, RT repeatedly aired two sound clips from two interviews: one with an anonymous witness who off-handedly claimed that he saw the SAM launched from a Ukrainian army position, and another with an anonymous Russian military expert who asserted that the Ukrainian military must have downed the plane. The expert based this conclusion not on any particular knowledge of the facts concerning the shoot-down, but on his assessment of the Ukrainian military as being “inept”. These two clips were repeatedly played on Thursday morning, at least once every 15 minutes.

As the morning progressed, the idea of portraying this as the Ukrainians deliberately framing Russia with a false flag must have worn thin for the people at RT. It’s one thing to promote paranoid conspiracy theories in privacy to an audience primed to believe such things, as RT generally does, but it’s quite another to expose such clearly delusional thinking to a broader public. So RT came up with another conspiracy theory, one equally implausible and arguably just as paranoid. They began to report that the shooting was a failed Ukrainian attempt to assassinate Putin.

RT claimed, both on-air and on their website, that Putin’s plane had flown over Donetsk at about the same time as MH17, and that the Ukrainian military had accidentally struck MH17 with a SAM intended for Putin.

The strain proved too great for one journalist, Sara Firth who resigned in protest at the coverage of the shooting down of the Malaysian plane, telling Buzzfeed, “I couldn’t do it anymore. Every single day we’re lying and finding sexier ways to do it.”

Read the rest of the analysis here.

"Armed Groups" Block OSCE Monitors From Inspecting MH17 Crash Site

The BBC is reporting:

The Swiss Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe [OSCE], Thomas Greminger, says that OSCE monitors were only given limited access to the plane crash site in Ukraine. He says they were stopped by local illegal armed groups.

UN Security Council to Hold Emergency Session on Shooting Down of Malaysian Airliner

The United Nations Security Council will hold an emergency session today amid calls for an independent international investigation into the shooting down of the Malaysian Airlines jet, which killed 298 people, the Guardian reported:

The council was discussing a British-drafted statement calling for “a full, thorough and independent international investigation
into what caused the crash and stressing the need for “all parties to
grant immediate access by investigators to the crash site to determine
the cause of the incident”.

Britain proposed the statement, which
calls for an investigation in accordance with international civil
aviation guidelines and “for appropriate accountability”, Reuters
reported. It would need to be approved by all 15 council members before
its release.

Earlier, the United Nations secretary general, Ban
Ki-moon, expressed his condolences and said there was “clearly a need
for a full and transparent international investigation”.

Ukraine has primary responsibility for investigating the shooting down
of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in its territory, there are precedents
for a broader international investigation. What form that would take it
not yet clear.

This morning the UN Security Council held a minute of silence in memory of the victims of the crash.


UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has expressed alarm at what seemed to be “credible, numerous reports”
that suggest that a sophisticated surface-to-air missile was used, the UN Press Centre reported today.

“The Secretary-General strongly condemns this apparently
deliberate downing of a civilian aircraft,” said Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman. “This
horrifying incident serves as the starkest reminder of how dire the
situation in eastern Ukraine has become – and how it affects countries
and families well beyond Ukraine’s borders.”

Daily Beast Cheat Sheet – Many AIDS Researchers Die In MH17 Disaster

The Daily Beast has published a “cheat sheet” for today’s top stories, many of which revolve around developments in Ukraine. The top story, that many AIDS researchers died in the MH17 disaster:


The heartbreaking news about Flight MH17 keeps getting worse. Of the 295 people aboard the Malaysia Airlines 777 that crashed in Ukraine, about 100 of the passengers were bound for a major AIDS conference in Melbourne, Australia. Among the researchers, health-care workers, and activists who have been identified: Dr. Joep Lange, a pioneering Dutch scientist who worked on the virus for 30 years.

View the entire list here.

Obama: Putin Could Stop Violence In Eastern Ukraine

US President Barack Obama has just finished speaking on the crisis in
Ukraine and the fighting in Gaza (the latter we’ll leave for another
liveblog). Here are some key points:

Obama said that there is a
“picking up of violence in eastern Ukraine… The separatists are
heavily armed, they are heavily trained… this is no accident… It is
coming from Russia.”

He also said that there are only certain
types of weapons that could reach a plane at this altitude. “We have
increasing confidence that this came from areas controlled by the
separatists.” He then said that if Putin decides to stop the movement of
arms and fighters across the border then the violence would stop.

was evasive on more sanctions: “This certainly should be a wake-up call
to Europe and the rest of the world” that efforts need to be undertaken
to stop this violence.

Obama said that his government has carefully studied the passenger manifests, and they do believe that one American was among the dead. Buzzfeed reports:

The State Department confirmed the identity of the American killed as a US-Dutch citizen, Quinn Lucas Schansman.

President Obama called the downing of MH17 “an outrage of unspeakable proportions” and said that U.S. intelligence indicates the plane “was shot down by a surface-to-air missile launched from a separatist-held area in Ukraine.”
President Obama called for an immediate ceasefire in the region. “It’s time for peace to be restored in Ukraine.”

Russian Air Force Targets and Intercepts Ukrainian Planes

The Ukrainian Council for National Security and Defense (CNSD) made a statement today noting that the downing of the Malaysian airline was the third such incident, after Ukrainian military AN-26 and SU-25 planes were downed from Russian territory. The information has not yet been confirmed.

The Interpreter has translated an excerpt from an article in Ukrainska Pravda:

On 16 July at 18:55, Ukrainian military intelligence recorded the use of the planes of the Russian Armed Forces Air Force against the Ukrainian SU-25 plane in the area of Ambvrosievka.

On the territory of Russia in Rostov Region in the area of Matveyev Kurgan-Novoshakhtinsk, our scout was accompanied by a MiG-29 plane from the 19th Fighter Aviation Regiment and the 1st Mixed Aviation of the 4th Division of the RF Air Force Command.

From 18:48-19:49 (Kiev time) the ground navigation point of the RF Armed Forces (call-name “Rapper”) navigated the Russian MiG-29 (pilot’s call name “221”) in order to destroy the air target on the territory of Ukraine.

During the flight in the direction of the state border of Ukraine on a course of 150-330 degrees (direction of Rostov-on-Don-Donetsk in the region of Matveyev Kurgan [RF] Amvrosievka) for a period of 5-7 minutes, the pilot was targeting by the command point the airplane of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Air Force for its destruction.

The barrage of the Russian MiG-29 fighter plane was made at an altitude of 8,850 meters, and the intercept of the Ukrainian plane by the missile of the MiG-29 was made at an altitude of 8,250 meters. The distance between the planes was 35-40 meters.

To destroy the target, Russian Air Force command gave the order to the MiG-29 pilot to use only air-to-air missiles such as the medium-range R-27T with an infrared self-navigation system.

This type of missile is not recorded by the radar warning receiver of the SU-25, and also the satellite reconnaissance systems and observation after the launch.

Another feature of the R-27 type missile is that they are manufactured in Ukraine, have the marking of the Artyom manufacturing plant (Kiev) and in the event their fragments are found, it is impossible to identify them as a Russia armament.

The Ukrainian CNSD said that the  Russian fighter targeted the Ukrainian plane three times and made one rocket strike before running out of fuel, but the Ukrainian pilot was able to land the damaged plane.

Ukrainian border guards also reported the flight of 8 Russian helicopters along the border line yesterday across from the Amvrosievka checkpoint, as well as a Russian drone.

Russia Could Make ‘Targeted Strikes Against Ukraine’: Lavrov
In an interview with the Russian state TV channel Rossiya 24, Russian Foreign Ministery Sergei Lavrov said that Russia is capable of suppressing firing positions, reported. The Interpreter has provided a translation of excerpts of the article:

“We have already warned that if this will continue, then we will take the necessary measures. At a minimum, if it is understand that this was done deliberately, I am certain that we must suppress such a position with a one-time method,” RIA Novosti reported Lavrov as saying.

Lavrov also emphasized that Moscow is now reviewing the situation of shelling of its territory from the Ukrainian side as a result of lack of professionalism or simply accident:

“In our estimate, this is nonetheless the result of either not very professional work of those who are serving at these placements, or it’s simply an accident which also does happen in war,” said Lavrov.

Furthermore, Lavrov also claimed the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was pressuring the investigation into the Malaysian Boeing crash when he announced yesterday, “this is not an incident, not an accident, but a terrorist act.”

Lavrov said there would be a video conference between Kiev and representatives of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” to discuss a ceasefire:

“There are grounds to anticipate that in the very new future there will be a video conference at which the questions of the ceasefire will be discussed, but now a ceasefire is triply necessary, taking into account the conducting of the investigation which must involve a fairly broad territory.”

Col. Igor Strelkov, the DPR’s defense minister, said yesterday that the site of the crash was in the rear of the separatists’ territory and that no ceasefire was needed to conduct the investigation:

“The place where the Boeing fell is in the deep rear of the DPR militia and no ‘humanitarian ceasefires’ or ‘corridors’ are required for an objective investigation of the reasons for the tragedy — the commission can freely go there and study the site of the crash. No one will hinder it. But to stop combat action against a surrounded group of the enemy is not prudent.”

EU Leaders Deflect Calls For More Sanctions Against Russia
Just as quickly as the Russian propaganda machine was swinging into full effect to inject even more confusion and ambiguity into an already terrible and tragic situation, the EU leadership was just as quickly deflecting calls for more sanctions against Russia. 

These calls, and the terrible downing of MH17, come a day after the EU refused to put any new sanctions in place, supposedly due to significant resistance from several member nations but including France and Italy. The only actions taken by the EU in the last 24 hours have been the relatively meager steps of suspending new financing for Russia from the European Investment Bank (EIB), which is the EU’s long-term lending institution which is separate from the European Central Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which was created to support the transition of Central and Eastern European countries from centrally-planned to market economies. 
Just as Putin was blaming Ukraine and stating his support for a ceasefire and international investigation, Angela Merkel was pushing back against the need for more sanctions. Reuters reports her saying:
“Regarding sanctions, I’d like to point out that the events with the plane, as far as I remember, were not even 24 hours ago and at the moment we need to sort out an independent investigation. So it’s perhaps premature to draw conclusions before we have access to the remains of the plane.”

Despite her calls for patience she is seemingly open to the idea of imposing costs on Russia which do not impact German business interests, like possibly ending France‘s sale of Mistral assault ships to the Russian Navy. 
It seems EU leaders are open to the imposition of costs against Russia, as long as these actions don’t impact their own business dealings.

Ukraine Security Services Releases Official Video Press Release
This video, with English subtitles, was published on the official Youtube channel for Ukraine’s Security Services (SBU). It includes transcripts of leaked audio, reportedly from conversations held between separatists, and a technical analysis of when and how the Buk missiles reached Ukraine.

The video includes a transcript of a several conversations reportedly between separatists. In the conversation, which we cannot independently verify, at several points the separatists discuss how the Buk missile system crossed the border — with Russian crews. The video then details how the separatists organized an escort convoy on the morning of July 17th, right before the jet was shot down. It ends with video which we have geolocated as having been filmed in Snezhnoye, near the site of the downed Malaysian aircraft. 

The separatists also talk about using GRAD rockets and 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled howitzers.

Russian Separatist Commander Strelkov Claims Corpses ‘Not Fresh’ At Site of Downed Malaysian Airliner

Russian Spring, a pro-Russian separatist website, has published answers to questions posed to Col. Igor Strelkov, defense minister of the self-declared “Donetsk People’s Republic.”

As we’ve noted, recently the authenticity of Strelkov’s statements has been at issue, and the VKontakte group “Strelkov’s Dispatches” which has served as a regular outlet for his statements reminded readers yesterday that only when they used the official “Strelkov Reports” banner and graphic with a sketch of the colonel would it mean that the statements were directly from him.

In this case, the VKontakte group has published two posts using the official banner, the first with the “not fresh” quote and the second with the rest of the text on the pilots. The Interpreter has provided a translation:

Igor Strelkov answered questions about the crash of the Malaysian Boeing.

Question: There is a version  of the story that the civilian plane was shot down by an SU-27.

Strelkov: There is such information. But I myself have not investigated the situation fully. Therefore I have not publicized this version (just like all others).

According to information from those who collected the bodies, a significant number of the bodies are ‘not fresh’ — people died several days ago. I do not vouch for the full reliability of this information — of course, an autopsy by medical examiners is needed.

Question: Some one would still have to pilot such a plane, which would be impossible to eject from. The story with the plane full of dead bodies is fascinating, of course, but the point isn’t obvious, somehow.

Strelkov: First, not all the people in the plane were dead before the crash.

Second, a large amount of medications were found, blood serum and so on, which is not characteristic for an ordinary airliner. Perhaps this was some kind of special medical freight.

Third, I do not insist on anything (for now). I just simply literally this minute talked with two people who personally collected the bodies immediately after the crash (both are from Shakhtyorsk and arrived at the scene no less than half an hour after the accident). I am writing this from their words. They emphasized that numerous corpses turned out to be ‘completely bloodless’ — as if their blood was drained long before the accident. They also noted the strong stench of corpses, noticed by many local residents — such a stench in any weather could not be formed within half an hour, and the weather yesterday was overcast, not very hot.

Fourth, I myself regard with total suspicion any ‘conspiracy theories,’ but 18 of our soldiers, who suffered chemical poisoning in positions at Semyonovka, and the executions of members of the families of militia men and other ‘little joys of the conscious patriots‘ convinced me that the Ukrainian authorities are capable of any low act.

The pilots naturally were quite alive — the whole cabin (and the front part was well preserved) was literally awash in their blood.

SBU Claims Buk SAM Was Crewed By Russians

Liga Novosti reports that Valentin Nalyvaichenko, the head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), has told reporters at a briefing today that the SBU has information that leads them to believe the Buk SAM system which shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was crewed by Russians.

Nalyvaichenko says that according to recorded conversations between separatist fighters, the crew of the Buk system were Russian military personnel.

He said (translated by The Interpreter):

“The most important thing for us now is, during the course of the investigation, and with the help of international institutions through a hearing at the UN and so on, to get, from the Russian side, the names of all three of the crew members, from the Russian military, who directly controlled the anti-aircraft missile system, and who personally pulled the trigger that launched missiles against a civilian airliner. We stress that this is a key detail in establishing the truth in this, now international, investigation.”

RFE/RL posted a report on the audio recordings released by the SBU.  

They describe the audio:

The first of the newly released conversations purportedly took place on July 14 between a commander in the self-proclaimed “Luhansk People’s Republic” and an alleged officer of Russian military intelligence (GRU) by the nickname of “Oreon.”

In that conversation, the Luhansk commander says, “We already have the Buk and we will shoot them [Ukrainian military planes] down” and Oreon responds, “Yes, I know that.”

The first of the newly released conversations purportedly took place on July 14 between a commander in the self-proclaimed “Luhansk People’s Republic” and an alleged officer of Russian military intelligence (GRU) by the nickname of “Oreon.”

In that conversation, the Luhansk commander says, “We already have the Buk and we will shoot them [Ukrainian military planes] down” and Oreon responds, “Yes, I know that.” 

Earlier today, Arsen Avakov, the Interior Minister, reported that Ukrainian intelligence had spotted a Buk SAM system, missing at least one missile, being transported through Krasnodon towards the Russian border.

A video purportedly showing the system in transport is below:

US Says Separatists Fired SA-11 Buk Missile At Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The U.S. now believes that separatists were responsible for firing the missile, a Department of Defense official said. Officials in Washington also confirmed that the missile was fired from a Russian-made SA-11, or Buk, system, the official said.

The official cautioned on both findings that a U.S. probe isn’t complete and investigators and analysts are still sifting the circumstances surrounding and leading up to the firing of the missile.

Ukraine Denies Separatists Ever Captured a Buk Surface-To-Air Missile System

The prime suspect in this incident is the Buk advanced surface-to-air missile system. They key reason for this is that the Buk is capable of hitting a jet flying as high as Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 (10,000m), and most other weapons systems are not.

On June 29th, several Russian government-operated news agencies claimed that the separatists had captured a Buk weapons system. That claim seems to have originated from TV Zvezda, the news agency for the Russian Ministry of Defense. So the key questions are these: If the separatists captured the weapons system, why didn’t the Ukrainian press report it? If the separatists did not capture the Buk from Ukraine, then where did they get it (hint — friends in the Kremlin)?

Now the Ukrainian government denies that it ever lost any of its Buk missile systems. Financial Times reports:

In late June rebel forces over-ran a small military base near Donetsk that houses anti-aircraft unit A1402 of the Ukrainian army. It is possible that they captured the launcher in doing so. The Ukrainian ministry of defence however has said it has accounted for all 60 of those it operates.

Speaking to the BBC on Friday morning, the Ukrainian ambassador to Nato said he was in no doubt the Buk launcher had come from Russia.

Claiming their equipment was captured when it fact it was smuggled over the border has also long been part of the rebel playbook. “They try to cover Russian arms supply by publicly stating they have captured equipment in the days or weeks before they use it,” says Igor Sutyagin, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute and an expert on Russian weaponry and tactics.

As FT notes, the separatists themselves bragged about being in possession of the Buk on June 29th in a tweet that has since been deleted.

Debunking The Myth Of ‘Carlos – Spanish Air Controller in Ukraine’

Matthew Bennett, editor of The Spain Report, has debunked one of yesterday’s many disinformation campaigns. Yesterday, a man who identified himself as “Carlos,”supposedly a Spanish air traffic controller working in Kiev, made many fantastical claims on Twitter about yesterday’s events. According to Carlos, two Ukrainian jets shot down the airliner, and soldiers were raiding his traffic control tower in Kiev as the story was unfolding.

Bennett has received confirmation from the Spanish embassy that “Carlos,” a man who made similar claims during the Maidan protests, does not exist. Bennett tells us that, “he was posting yesterday that he was a Spanish controller in a tower that was taken over by soldiers as events unfolded. As far as I know, he was the source of the ‘MH 17 tailed by two Ukrainian fighters’ story. He’s been quoted quite a bit on RT [the Russian state-operated propaganda network] since yesterday, and gained several thousand new Twitter followers in just a few hours.”

The Spain Report posted this note on their Facebook page:

Full reply from Spanish embassy to The Spain Report via e-mail on the existence of “Carlos, @spainbuca, the Spanish air traffic controller” in Ukraine:

“This is not the first time we have been asked about him. This “Carlos” was also active during the Maidán revolution in Ukraine.

We have no knowledge of “Carlos” having been in Ukraine. There is no record of his passing through the Consulate, and no one from the (relatively small) Spanish colony knows him.
The airport where he supposedly worked for several years told us at the time that all of their air traffic controllers are Ukranian, and that in any case they have never employed any Spaniard for that or any other task.

Furthermore, the last information he was posting before the airline tragedy was of the same sort. He was saying, for example, that he lived in Kiev and had been threatened by radical extreme-right elements. No Spaniard or national of another country—to my knowledge—has ever been threatened in this country.”

As of now, Carlos’s Twitter account appears to have been removed.

CNN: Sources In US Intelligence Say Missile That Downed Airliner Came From Separatists

Just moments ago on the air CNN reported that according to a top source in US intelligence a preliminary assessment shows that the surface-to-air missile that shot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was fired from eastern Ukraine and by Russian-backed separatists.

Obviously we cannot confirm that piece of information, but here is what we do know.

The Buk missile system, an advanced surface-to-air missile system capable of destroying this airliner, was spotted on the ground by Associated Press journalists, a Ukrainian journalist, and residents of several towns in the area of the plane crash. A video reportedly showing the Buk moving through the streets of Snezhnoye was geolocated by The Interpreter. That vehicle was only 16 kilometers from the site of the crash, well within range of the Buk missile system.

Though we cannot confirm where the missile was launched from, all of the suspected launching sites so far are deep within separatist territory. The Buk is defenseless against ground attack, and since there is no evidence that the Ukrainian military has a presence in the area, the probability that the Ukrainian government could have moved a Buk missile system through enemy territory to this area of eastern Ukraine just to shoot this missile down is extremely low.

Renewed Fighting Near Yasynuvata, Donetsk, With Loss of Harvests

Novosti Donbassa reports that the Donetsk Regional Administration has announced that militants from the self-declared ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ have imposed a curfew and passport checks in the town of Yasynuvata, just to the north of Donetsk. 

They also report on the resumption of fighting near Karlovka, the scene of a major attack by Vostok battalion fighters on the Ukrainian Donbass battalion on May 23.

Gunfire has been reported elsewhere in the Yasynuvata district, in the villages of Netaylovo, Pervomayka and the Spartak area. 

Novosti Donbassa reports that harvests are failing due to the continuous fighting:

In the Yasynuvata district (in Umanskoe), due to the constant shelling, fire has destroyed wheat fields of 125 and 80 hectares. 

Russia Pledges To Cooperate With International Investigation
Some breaking news:

The OSCE, an international mission in which Russia participates, reports that they are sending 30 observers to the crash site, and according to the report representatives for the self-declared “Donetsk People’s Republic,” the separatist leadership organization, will cooperate with the investigation. Interfax-Ukraine reports:

Thirty of our observers have travelled to the scene of the tragedy, the mission said.

The observers are due to arrive by Friday evening to conduct the monitoring on the site where the plane came down.

The [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Special Monitoring Mission[ said that at the consultations of the trilateral contact group DPR representative reassured they will try to ensure the safety of the international observers.

No US Citizens Aboard MH17

We have received new from a well placed source in the US government that the identities of most, but not all of the passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 have been confirmed. The source said that there were no Americans on the flight.

Earlier, Channel 4 News reported that three British citizens were aboard, alongside:

173 Dutch passengers, 44 Malaysians, including 15 crew and two infants, 28 Australians, 12 Indonesians (including one infant), four Germans, four Belgians, three Filipinos, one Canadian, one New Zealander and one Hong Kong citizen. There are currently 18 unconfirmed nationalities.

Grad Rockets Strike Lugansk

OstroV reports that the outskirts of Lugansk have been struck by barrages of Grad rockets

Citing reports to the site by local residents, OstroV report that the area around the ‘Heroes of Stalingrad‘ residential block have come under intense fire, with shells landing near high-rise blocks and a school.

At around 12:00 (9:00 GMT), the Stepnoy block was shelled and the Zarechny block lost electricity.

OstroV reports (translated by The Interpreter), that:

Local residents say that, by all appearances, the shelling is coming from Lugutinsky street (near the Lugansk sea [a large lake]), where many large-calibre weaponry is located, including Grads.

Grad launchers were also reportedly seen in action near the train station and the occupied SBU building. While smoke was reported rising near a sports complex to the east of the city.

Video purportedly showing the aftermath of a rocket strike in Lugansk has appeared. We have not verified this footage:

Video of Buk Launcher – Missing 1 Missile – Purportedly Heading to Russia

A video has been uploaded to YouTube which purportedly shows a Buk SAM launcher being transported by truck towards the Russia. We have not get enough in the video to perform a geolocation, however the Ukrainian Interior Minister, Arsen Avakov, claims that the video was filmed in the Ukrainian town of Krasnodon, close to the Russian border.

Armoured columns, apparently arriving from Russia, have previously been seen passing through Krasnodon, en-route to Lugansk. The town is only around 10 km from the Russian border.

In his Facebook post, Avakov writes that the launcher was spotted at 4:50 am (01:50 GMT) by Interior Ministry surveillance units in Krasnodon, heading in the direction of the Russian border. 

He notes at least one of the four missiles usually carried by a Buk launcher is missing in the video, suggesting that the launcher has been used.  

Ukrainian Government Denies Separatists Captured Buk SAM

Interfax-Ukraine reports that Vitaliy Yarema, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General, has told reporters that separatist fighters have not seized any Buk surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems:

“The military told the president after the passenger plane had been shot down [in the Donetsk region] that the terrorists did not possess our Buk and S-300 missile systems. Such had not been seized.”

The claim that the separatists had captured a Ukrainian Buk launcher appears to originate solely from a report by the Russian Defence Ministry’s Zvezda TV. When the report was publicised around the time of the downing of a Ukrainian An-26 at around 6,000 metres on July 14, we suggested that it may be ‘seeded’ disinformation from the Russian government to cover the supply of a Buk system from the Russian Federation. 

In an analysis published yesterday, Mark Galeotti, a Professor of Global Affairs at New York University and an expert on Russia’s security forces, echoes this suggestion:

A single Russian report alleged that the rebels had captured a Buk from Ukrainian government stocks, but this was almost certainly preemptive disinformation as there is nothing else external to the rebels’ own propaganda to support this claim. Besides which, while it is not that difficult to find crew for artillery, even tanks, the Buk does require well-trained crews, and ones trained relatively recently.

Meanwhile, Anton Herashchenko, an adviser to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, wrote on his Facebook page that the Buk launcher, used to fire the missile that downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, had been moved to Russian territory.

He claims that, based on information received by the Ukrainian government, Igor Girkin, a.k.a. Strelkov, arrived in Snezhnoye last night to clean up the situation.

Herashchenko says that the launcher was then withdrawn across the border to Russia.  

He also says that according to Ukrainian intelligence, the separatist fighters guarding the crash site have found ‘black box’ flight data recorders and will pass them over today to their “FSB handlers”.

Photos and video have appeared online which purportedly show a Buk launcher in separatist hands in the Snezhnoye and Torez areas. 

One video, showing what appears to be a Buk launcher, has been geolocated in Snezhnoye

The path of the launcher takes it towards the Saur-Mogila kurgan, a burial mound used as a firing position by separatist fighters

Reports of Burning Oil Refinery After Shelling

There are reports that an oil refinery in Lysychansk, in the Lugansk region, is on fire following shelling.  reports that the refinery was shelled at around 3:30 am (00:30 GMT). An intense fire developed as a result. The site is reportedly still burning.

A video appears to show the site burning at night:

While we haven’t got an exact viewpoint match, the site definitely resembles photos available from different sides of the refinery on Panoramio. This looks like it may have been shot from the north.77504298.jpg


Roman Bochkala, a Ukrainian journalist, reported on his Facebook page on the incident, and posted more photos, “contributed by locals”.

He writes (translated by The Interpreter):

The Lysychansk oil refinery is on fire. The fire started at approximate 9:30 [6:30 GMT] today. Prior to this, the plant was shelled with Grads, presumably by local self-defence.





Interestingly, the plant is owned by Rosneft, the Russian oil giant which was added to US sanctions lists on Wednesday, July 17.

The company obtained the plant following their merger with TNK-BP last year. Operations at the refinery were suspended on March 1, 2012, but, according to Igor Sechin, the personally sanctioned CEO of Rosneft, speaking on January 31 this year, Rosneft had intended to resume operations this summer, having begun upgrading the plant. The status of these plans following the fall of Viktor Yanukovych is uncertain.

Here are more photos, reportedly taken from Novikov and Gogol Streets in Severodonetsk:

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