Work from the Netherlands and Australia today formally stated that they are convinced that Russia is responsible for the deployment of the “Buk” anti-aircraft missile system that shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) in 2014. The announcement came a day after the Dutch joint investigation team issued a report on their findings, which concluded the weapon belongs to the 53rd anti-aircraft division of the Russian Army, which is based outside the city of Kursk, north of the Ukrainian border.
Physical evidence collected by investigators, including radar tracking and flight recorder data, points to the use of a specific type of weapon associated with Buk surface-to-air missiles. Paint transferred from the remains of the missile to the plane’s fuselage matches the recovered parts of the missile.
Russia has long denied that any of its military equipment crossed the border into eastern Ukraine, and the Russians presented several alternative scenarios — including blaming the plane’s landing on a Ukrainian Air Force pilot . The Russians initially said they had radar evidence proving their allegation, but the country later said it had been lost—only to say they had it. found evidence again just two days before the Joint Investigative Team’s press conference 2016. A separate target that Russia claims to have identified on radar is actually part of the MH17 fuselage that was torn off after the missile exploded.
A significant body of evidence points to the involvement of 53rd The military’s missile systems came from an open-source intelligence analysis, which used photos and videos posted by Russians to social media sites showing a convoy of vehicles from 53rd heading towards the Ukrainian border. Details from images and videos, including license plates on military vehicles and geographic details matched with Google Street View photos, provided investigators with the route and timeline of the Buk missile systems’ movements.
More research from researchers and reporters is an open source intelligence research group BellingcatRussian research website Directorwe had McClatchy News Service’s Washington, DC office identify the employee of the First Intelligence Directorate of Russia (Glavnoye razvedyvatel’noye upravleniye, abbreviated as GRU) that has been linked to the deployment of the Buk antiaircraft system involved in the downing of MH17.
Working from interviews with separatists, recorded phone calls, and calling application data, the team was able to track down Oleg Vladimirovich Ivannikov—including calling him on an associated number and agreeing to identify himself, which provided a sample sound is the process. Ivannikov has been linked to other clandestine military operations, including serving under a pseudonym for eight years in the government of pro-Russian separatists in South Ossetia — first as chairman of the defense council and later as defense minister.
Russian media reported that Ivannikov’s current role includes providing training and funding for “private” military operations in Syria, such as one that attacked US forces (and hit back with heavy casualties) earlier this year.
There is already a lot of evidence of Russian involvement with eastern Ukraine separatists. Russian social media has even released videos made by Russians of rocket launches from the Russian side of the border targeting Ukraine. Google Earth images have shown evidence of Russian military transport and rocket launches. And Russian soldiers have even made social media posts from inside Ukraine, including the strange case of the “Sergeant Selfie” — a Russian soldier who was tagged while posting pictures of himself in a vehicle your armored car.