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“How could we check it?” a Russian “expert” said when confronted with glaring mistakes in the image. “It came to us from the internet.” UPDATE — The original source for the image told BuzzFeed News that he found it online and never expected to see it on Russian TV. “Those guys are either desperate or totally unprofessional.”
The front page of the local newspaper calls on Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to apologise as relations between Australia hit an all time low after the downing of Flight MH17 in Ukraine, at the G20 Leaders Summit in Brisbane on Nov. 14, 2014. © AFP.
KIEV, Ukraine — The man whose email was used as ‘proof’ that Ukraine shot down MH17 told BuzzFeed News that he had found the image on a forum and was upset that it had been used so widely on Russian TV.
George Bilt—who said he is an MIT graduate and aviation expert with 26 years experience, but would not provide further biographical details—said that he had come across an earlier report by the Russian Union of Engineers (RUE) blaming a Ukrainian fighter jet for the crash, and thought that it concurred with his own amateur findings. When he saw the picture online, Bilt wrote to Andreyevsky, the “expert” from the broadcast, with a link to the forum where the image was posted, clearly stating that he had found it there.
“I had no knowledge or means of proving and researching if this was an authentic satellite photo or not (it was clearly available online since mid October – not really such a new discovery too),” Bilt said. “RUE seemed to possess such research means and resources. I do not know if this was my mistake in evaluation.”
Bilt said that he was shocked to see his email, which he thought that he had written to Andreyevsky in confidence, used on Russian TV as proof of the Kremlin’s claims, citing him as a source. “I am quite unhappy that my bona fide informal attempt possibly became a source of yet another battle in a media war,” he said. “This was definitely not my intention. I am also not looking for a cheap fame. This tragedy is simply too awful to gain from it.
“I am sorry for all those people I might have indirectly and unintentionally misled or disappointed by this unexpected mess in anyway,” Bilt added. “Personally and professionally, I will not continue with this amateurish investigation effort due to the rather insane highly confrontational situation prone to escalation and with the elements of media war.
“Those folks are either desperate or totally unprofessional,” he said.
On Friday, Russia’s Channel 1 published what it said were satellite photos proving that a Ukrainian government fighter jet shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July.
Host Mikhail Leontiev, who is also a vice-president at state oil giant Rosneft, said that the pictures were sent to the Russian Union of Engineers by an MIT graduate named George Bilt.
Leontiev quoted an email from Bilt in which he said that the plane “was shot down in a classic jet fighter attack from the rear semi-sphere.”
The Kremlin has suggested a Ukrainian Su-25 could have shot down the plane — despite a wealth of evidence rebels shot it down with a Russian-supplied Buk missile system, most likely by mistake.
There are numerous inconsistencies with the Russian official versions of the downing of the MH17, even without taking into account the evidence to the contrary.
Russia’s defense ministry claimed simultaneously that the Boeing could also have been shot down by a Ukrainian Buk, even though Kiev denies having any active systems within range.
A list of 10, mostly rhetorical questions the ministry prepared for Ukraine included references to tweets by a Spanish air traffic controller in Kiev who quickly turned out not to exist.
Russian bloggers, however, quickly took the claim to pieces. Photographer Rustem Adagamov found that part of the image came from the Google Images cache dating back to August 2012.
Journalist Sergei Parkhomenko found several other pictures taken from Yandex.Maps, a Russian site.
Another Russian photographer, Ilya Varlamov, pointed out that the fighter in the picture appeared to be a MiG-29 — and not an Su-27.
On top of all this, the Su-27 can only fly to 23,000 feet — far below the altitude of 33,000 feet MH17 was cruising at when it was shot down. zyalt.livejournal.com
The Boeing in the picture turned out to bear a suspicious resemblance to the first Russian-language Google Images result for “Boeing view from above.”
Интересно, изображение Боинга они прямо загуглили тоже? Или совпадение? Первая картинка в выдаче «Боинг вид сверху» http://t.co/e5MyH07UWQ—
Максим Кац (@max_katz) November 14, 2014
It had the Malaysia Airlines logo in the wrong place.
In fact, it just looked like an ordinary Boeing 777 with the company’s own logo.
I may be wrong but proportions suggest the satellite 777 MH17 has the old Boeing house livery without the "777" title http://t.co/x57KNlxVAb—
Ross Hallam (@MrRossHallam) November 14, 2014
And it was shown at a distance of 31 miles from MH17 — not 250 miles, as Bilt claimed in his email.
The image also said that the Boeing was shot down at 1:19 a.m. London time — a full 12 hours before the disaster actually happened.
In fact, the photo dates back to at least October, when it appeared on a conspiracy theory forum attributed to “enthusiasts of Rusian [sic] Wikileaks.”
It also shows the plane being shot down over the rebel capital of Donetsk — and not the city of Snezhnoe, 50 miles to the east, where it was actually hit. obkon.ucoz.com
The Russian Union of Engineers turned out not to add up either. Ivan Andreyevsky, the “expert” quoted in the show, does not appear to have an engineering education. A quick analysis of his PhD turned up obvious signs of plagiarism.
After seeing the debunking, reporters from the Moskovsky Komsomolets tabloid asked the union’s head, Vladimir Saulyanov, whether they had checked the image for authenticity. “How could we check it?” Saulyanov said. “It came to us from the internet.” 1tv.ru
Mockery soon ensued. Several users posted photos of a Ukrainian Nazi flying saucer shooting down the plane.
РБ головного мозга (@belamova) November 14, 2014
This picture shows the fighter being flown by Ukrainian World War II nationalist leader Stepan Bandera, reviled in Russian state media for his influence on the Ukrainian far right.
Наш фотограф крупным планом запечатлел момент, когда украинский истребитель сбивал малайзийский Боинг http://t.co/5BLglmWMmR—
Lie News (@Lie_News) November 14, 2014
This one shows the plane painted in the style of traditional Ukrainian vyshivanka embroidery.
ПРАВДЫ НЕ СКРЫТЬ! На снимке видно, что крылья истребителя, сбившего Боинг, раскрашены в цвета украинской вышиванки! http://t.co/VfttMMu72i—
Дядюшка Шу (@Shulz) November 14, 2014
The scandal comes at an awkward time for Vladimir Putin, who is still making bold-faced denials of Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine conflict.
RuNet Echo (@runetecho) November 15, 2014
The G20 summit in Australia this weekend has fast dissolved into a debate on what to do about a resurgent Russia.
British Prime Minister David Cameron raised the prospect of further European Union sanctions for the recent military columns seen in rebel-held east Ukraine, which NATO says came from Russia.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel blamed Putin for the collapse of the ceasefire deal he helped broker in early September.
Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper greeted Putin by saying, “I guess I’ll shake your hand but I have only one thing to say to you, you need to get out of Ukraine.” according to the Globe and Mail newspaper. Handout / Reuters
Putin’s public comments have been unrepentant. But he’ll have to do more to convince the rest of the world that he didn’t shoot down MH17. (This caption says “Channel 1 published the real group photo from the G20 summit.”)
Первый канал опубликовал подлинное групповое фото с саммита G20. http://t.co/zEvdi6O0MF—
Владимир Терехов (@Geschichter) November 15, 2014
Visit BuzzFeed for more great articles.
Journalists look at parts of the Malaysia Airlines plane Flight MH17 as Dutch investigators (unseen) arrive at the crash site near the Grabove village in eastern Ukraine on Nov. 11, hoping to recover debris from the Malaysia Airlines plane which crashed in July, killing all 298 people. © AFP
Stefan Huijboom, for Kyiv Post.
ROZSYPNE/DONETSK, Ukraine – The stifling heat of last July has made place for a breezing cold. The bright red and yellow leafs of the trees are waving on the gulfs of the cold wind. Autumn has made its way to eastern Ukraine. However, near the village of Rozsypne – some 80 kilometres east of Donetsk – not a lot has changed since Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down from the sky, killing all 298 people aboard.
Almost four months later, the wreckage of the Boeing 777 cockpit still lies scattered and untouched on a field of dried and withered sunflowers. The area is deserted, and the only sound is the echo of exchanging artillery fire in the far distance. It comes with pauses, but it remains constant as some plumes of smoke arise on the horizon.
Further north in the direction of Debaltseve lies the front where intense fighting between government forces and pro-Russian separatists still takes place, despite an agreed ceasefire as of Sept. 5. These clashes have been the main argument of the Dutch government to withheld sending its investigation team to the crash site. “It’s too dangerous,” according to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
Nov. 10 marked the national commemoration ceremony in the Netherlands of the fallen MH17 passengers, yet until to date there has not been a lot of satisfying progress leaving those left behind solely in anger and despair.
Earlier, former Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans claimed on a popular Dutch talk show that one victim was found wearing an oxygen mask, frightening relatives as his statement suggested that the passengers might in fact have been conscious before the plane had hit the ground. Later, he apologized but Dutch forensics did confirm one victim was found with an oxygen mask though it was highly unlikely this passenger was conscious after the aircraft was hit.
Also, the Dutch government has been accused of being too passive as they refused to directly negotiate with the self-proclaimed separatist government, stating that Ukraine did not want Dutch officials to negotiate with rebels, resulting in a delay gaining access to the crash site. “In my perception, there was no delay due to the fact that we have not worked through separatists,” PM Rutte stated.
Recently, however, Ukrainian officials offered a statement that the Dutch authorities could actually – if they wanted to – directly negotiate with rebel officials regarding access to the crash site leaving the Dutch nation in disbelief.
“The Netherlands had the legal obligation towards the relatives of the victims to act out the firm language it used at the United Nations Security Council instead of coming up now with a lot of excuses that should not matter,” Geert-Jan Knoops said, a lawyer who specializes in international criminal law. “Almost 200 compatriots were killed. The Dutch government had the legal, moral and international right to use military force if our MPs wanted to.”
Harry Van Bommel, a member of the Dutch Socialist Party, silently referred to a possible future political crisis.
“At first we were satisfied with the government being restrained. They promised to make it its first priority to take back the victims – our people – and their belongings. However, now this satisfaction has turned into anger and disappointment,” Van Bommel said.
The German intelligence agency has publicly pointed to the Russian-backed separatists as responsible for downing the MH17, claiming to have gathered enough evidence to support this allegation. Dutch officials, though, choose not to already accuse one party as the Netherlands have the leading role in the criminal investigation. To many this is a thorn on their side, making it hard for the Dutch government to gain trust from its citizens.
“We have to be cautious, whereas harsh judgements may have been given previously, some were later already withdrawn. Given our role in the mission we can’t afford to do the same,” Han Ten Broeke explained, member of the liberal right-wing party VVD. The VVD has been part of the coalition government and has a majority of seats in the Dutch parliament. It has actively supported the government in its actions involving MH17.
Due to the amount of criticism the Dutch government received, it has been quite a surprise that last week a Dutch team of investigators were given access to the crash site where it collected human remains of five victims, transporting it back with the expected dignity to the Netherlands. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Ukraine is helping to assist visits to the crash site for the Dutch investigators.
Removing parts of the aircraft wreckage was supposed to start in cooperation with the self-proclaimed Ministry of Transport of the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’.
On Nov. 11 Dutch officials of the investigation mission, however, arrived at the crash site, making only photographs of the wreckage in preparation of possibly removing it in the upcoming weeks. Later, it became clear that the OSCE – assisting the visits to the area – was unable to reach an agreement with Russia-backed rebels controlling the area, failing to start the removal.
Some praised this quick action following the massive criticism, others found it quite hypocritical. “If they can do it now, why couldn’t they have done it two or three months earlier?” is the question many are raising.
Although the final investigation could take up to a year to complete, Bellingcat, a private team of online investigative journalists, has released already its own conclusion based on a thorough analysis of videos and photos on different social media. It believes that evidence points to a Russian Buk missile launcher in the area on the date of the crash.
Meanwhile, winter is approaching in eastern Ukraine, making it more difficult to resume the investigation, and thus it will soon be “on hold” again, although it is argued that the cold winter might destroy more evidence, resulting in what some say a failed investigation.
A local Rozsypne resident Tatiana, who only wanted to give the Kyiv Post her first name, wants those responsible for the downing of MH17 to be brought to justice. Shyly she put her head down as she explained: “So many children were killed. So much injustice has been done.” She speaks of the village where she grew up as a current place of fear. “I have nightmares ever since the crash happened. Dead bodies fell onto the roof of my neighbor,” she desolately said, adding: “I too will remember the victims, but not just for one day, but my whole life.”
Stefan Huijboom is a Dutch journalist based in Kyiv. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Relatives and friends of victims of the downing of Flight MH17 attending a memorial in Amsterdam on Monday. Jasper Juinen / Reuters
As President Vladimir Putin accused Kiev of having hindered the official investigation into the downing of passenger plane MH17 in July, a group of investigative reporters have asserted that the plane was shot down by pro-Russian separatists using a missile system taken from Russia’s military.
The investigation, titled “Origin of the Separatists’ Buk: A Bellingcat Investigation” and conducted by a citizen journalism group, used various sources for its research, including social media, Google Earth satellite imagery, reports by journalists who were on the ground in Ukraine at the time of the plane’s downing and interviews with residents near the crash site.
The group’s founder, British journalist Eliot Higgins, is an expert in social media forensics and has previously conducted investigations using open source information, including reports on the origin of weapons used in Syria’s civil war.
The report on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, published on Saturday, bases their argument that the rebels were responsible for the plane crash that claimed 298 lives on several key pieces of evidence, including sightings of the Buk missile system believed to have shot the plane down, the truck used to transport it, and the military convoy from Russia’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade, from which they claim the missile system was taken.
Using messages posted on Twitter and photographs uploaded to various social media sites, the report tracks the Buk missile system on the day of the catastrophe and concludes that it was repeatedly spotted in rebel-controlled territory, not Ukrainian-controlled territory as Russia’s Defense Ministry and the rebels have argued.
The low-loader truck believed to have been used to transport the Buk missile system responsible for the downing of the plane is also crucial to the report, which claims that the truck was photographed with separatists both before and after the downing of the plane.
In addition, journalists from Paris Match — a French magazine that contributed to the report — contacted the owner of the truck by phoning the telephone number listed on its side. The owner reportedly said his truck had been stolen by separatists, and that it was one of a kind in the region, according to the report.
The report also purports to debunk another one of the Defense Ministry’s claims, that the Buk system was spotted in Ukrainian-controlled Krasnoarmeisk on the day of the plane crash.
The ministry had cited a photograph of the system parked next to a billboard with a Krasnoarmeisk address on it. Citing a resident of Luhansk, the Bellingcat report claims to the contrary that the same billboard fact located in that rebel-stronghold, not Krasnoarmeisk.
The report also argues that the BUK missile system used in the downing of the plane, called “Buk 3×2” for the one missing digit in its identifying number, came from a Russian military convoy used for a training exercise in Millerovo, near the border with Ukraine.
By analyzing 16 videos posted to social media accounts of members of the 53rd Brigade, the report concludes that “Buk 3×2” was present in the convoy of the brigade at the start of its training exercises, which began on June 22 and ran through July 25.
“Buk 3×2” appears in eight of the 16 videos taken between June 22 and June 25, the report said.
The next time “Buk 3×2” popped up was in Donetsk on July 17, the day of the plane’s downing, according to the report, which cites various social media accounts as spotting the system in the town of Zuhres, then Shakhtarsk, and finally Snizhne, from where it is believed to have been used to shoot down the plane that day.
Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin on Monday accused Ukraine’s government of interfering with the official MH17 investigation.
Putin made the comments in talks with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific conference in China. Najib called for greater access to the wreckage, but Putin disputed the suggestion that pro-Russia separatists were hindering the investigation.
“The reference that the territory of the crash site is controlled by so called pro-Russian separatists is totally ungrounded,” Putin said.
“It is not them but the opposite side [that is] constantly shelling the site and doesn’t allow full work there,” he said, adding that Russia supported a full and impartial investigation into the downing of the plane.
Material from Reuters is included in this report.
Mark Rutte says lull in fighting allowed investigators to re-enter eastern Ukraine site where Malaysia Airlines plane came down.
Part of the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), about 80km east of Donetsk. Photograph: Alexander Khudoteply/AFP/Getty Images
A Dutch team took advantage of a pause in fighting between government forces and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine on Friday to recover human remains from the Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash site, the Dutch prime minister said.
Mark Rutte said “the team recovered human remains from the so-called burn site” where the plane hit the ground, but he gave no more details.
It was the first time in weeks that Dutch authorities had been able to reach the area.
All 298 passengers and crew, two-thirds of them Dutch, died on 17 July when the aircraft was downed.
Kiev blames pro-Russian separatists for the airliner’s destruction. Russia says a Ukrainian military aircraft shot it down.
So far, 289 victims have been identified.
Security conditions were good enough on Friday for a small Dutch team, accompanied by members of the Ukrainian fire brigade and officials with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) officials, to search part of the crash site, Rutte said.
The remains would be sent back to the Netherlands for identification.
An armed pro-Russia militant attempts to stop journalists from accessing the site of the crash of a Malaysia Airlines plane carrying 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in Grabove, in rebel-held east Ukraine, on July 19, 2014 © AFP
BERLIN – Germany’s BND foreign intelligence agency has concluded that pro-Russian rebels are to blame for the downing of Malaysia Airline MH17 in Ukraine in July, Der Spiegel weekly reported on Sunday, the first European agency to say so.
The crash over pro-Russian rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine on July 17 killed all 298 passengers and crew and led to a further deterioration of ties between the West and Moscow, who are in dispute over Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis.
Gerhard Schindler, president of the BND, told a secret parliamentary committee on security affairs earlier this month that separatists had used a Russian Buk missile defence system from a Ukrainian base to fire a rocket that exploded directly next to the Malyasia Air plane, Der Spiegel reported.
“It was pro-Russian separatists,” the magazine quoted him as saying.
The BND concluded the rebels were to blame after a detailed analysis based on satellite and other photos, Der Spiegel said. Noone at the BND was immediately available to comment.
Kiev blames the incident on the rebels and accused Moscow of arming them, but the rebels and Moscow deny the accusations.
European governments have so far refrained from openly pointing the finger, but shortly after the crash U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said there was strong evidence that Moscow-backed separatists had downed the plane.
The Dutch government, which has two investigations underway into the downing of the airliner, has yet to say who was responsible. Two thirds of the passengers were Dutch.
A preliminary report by the Dutch Safety Board last month said the airliner crashed due to a “large number of high-energy objects” from outside the aircraft. It drew no conclusions as to where they came from.