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British Group Presents Evidence Russian Buk Shot Down MH17

  • RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service

A Russian Buk-2M missile launcher is displayed on Red Square in Moscow during the Victory Day parade on May 9, 2013.

A Russian Buk-2M missile launcher is displayed on Red Square in Moscow during the Victory Day parade on May 9, 2013.

A British NGO has published a summary report claiming that a Russian Buk surface-to-air missile system shot down a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet on July 17, 2014, over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people aboard.

Bellingcat, which analyzes information available on the Internet, said on October 8 that the Buk antiaircraft system involved in the incident can be traced from the Russian city of Kursk in June 2014 to a field outside the Ukrainian town of Snizhne in Donetsk Oblast on the day of the flight MH17 disaster.

The next day, the launcher from the same Buk system -- with only three missiles instead of the normal compliment of four -- was documented to be near the Russian border in Luhansk Oblast, the report says.

"We have looked at all the open-source investigation we've done over the last 18 months and it seems a pretty firm conclusion that the Russian military provided the missile launcher that shot down MH17, that the missile was launched from outside of Snizhne," Bellingcat founder and director Eliot Higgins says. "And we were able to track the Buk missile launcher back to the actual unit who provided it, the 53rd Brigade."

Higgins added that Bellingcat has forwarded information about the individual members of the 53rd Brigade who might have been involved in shooting down MH17 to authorities investigating the incident.

The Bellingcat report also contradicts four claims made by the Russian Defense Ministry at a press conference on July 21, 2014, at which Russian officials claimed MH17 may have been shot down by a Ukrainian military jet or by a Buk system controlled by the Ukrainian military.

Bellingcat alleges that the Russian military misrepresented video, radar, and photographic evidence at that press conference. "Alternative scenarios presented by the Russian Ministry of Defense and [Buk manufacturer] Almaz-Antey are at best deeply flawed, and at worst show a deliberate attempt to mislead using fabricated evidence," Bellingcat says.

Moscow has denied Russian military involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The official report on the MH17 disaster by the Dutch Safety Board, with which Bellingcat cooperates, will be issued on October 13. A preliminary report on the investigation's findings that was released in July said MH17 was brought down by a Buk missile launched from an area held by Russia-backed separatists.