Assigning Blame for MH17

The Buk missile launcher suspected of downing MH17. Source: Bellingcat.
The Buk missile launcher suspected of downing MH17. Source: Bellingcat.

In the aftermath of the destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over the Donetsk region of Ukraine last July, two parallel investigations were launched by the Dutch governmment: one a civil inquiry to establish the cause of the incident, the other a criminal inquiry to establish responsibility. The first was completed last month, when the Dutch Safety Board released a report entitled “Crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.” It concluded that the plane had been struck by a missile fired by a Russian-made Buk surface-to-air missile (SAM) launcher. Responsibility for the deed has yet to be assigned; the Dutch prosecutor’s office is expected to release its findings next year.

Those findings, I think, will surprise many people.

The commonly accepted scenario is that rebels obtained a Buk missile launcher and, believing that they were attacking a Ukrainian military transport, fired upon and destroyed a Malaysia Airlines 777 by mistake. In this telling, no one was truly to blame—it was all a big mistake, the kind of tragic misunderstanding that is all to common in war.

There is ample evidence for this narrative. Russian media reported that on June 29 the rebels had captured a Buk missile launcher. On July 14, a Ukrainian Antonov An-26 military transport plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine while flying at an altitude of 20,000 feet. On July 16, a Ukrainian Sukhoi Su-25 attack jet was shot down while flying at a similar altitude. Then, on July 17, a rebel commander named Igor Girkin boasted on social media that his forces had shot down another Antonov-26 transport plane belonging to the Ukrainian military. Girkin, a colonel in Russian military intelligence declared that “In the vicinity of Torez, we just downed a plane, an AN-26.”

The post was soon after deleted, but not before it was picked up by mainstream Russian media.

By the time it became evident that the victim had in fact been a Malaysian airliner, the mistake was well documented, and its sincerity broadly accepted by media around the world, especially after German intelligence sources endorsed the view that MH17 had been mistakenly shot down by Donetsk separatists.

The limitiations of the solitary Buk mobile missile launcher are key to this rogue-militia scenario. As the Dutch Safety Board notes in its report,

Normally, the system operates as a unit of several vehicles, consisting of one Target Acquisition Radar; one Command Post, several Transporter Erector/Launcher and Radar vehicles [TELAR]; several Transporter/Erector/Launcher and Loader vehicles; [and] technical, maintenance and other support vehicles.  The Target Acquisition Radar will search for and detect targets. Once a target has been detected by the Target Acquisition Radar, the fire control radar in the Transporter/Erector/Launcher and Radar [TELAR] vehicles can acquire and track the target. Once in range, a missile from the [TELAR] vehicles can be launched to engage the target. However, each Buk [TELAR] vehicle is equipped with its own fire control radar, allowing the vehicle to search for and engage with a target independently.

That is to say that each TELAR vehicle is capable of operating independently to a certain extent, using its own radar to lock onto a target, but the system is not sophisticated enough to discriminate enemy military aircraft from civilian airliners. For this it relies on either on the separate Target Acquisition Radar or communication with a larger air-defence system, which will be connected to networked military radars and civilian air traffic control. It’s quite easy to imagine that ill-trained and undisciplined militiamen might have gotten their hands on a TELAR and, lacking a Target Acquisition Radar and misinterpreting the returns on their radar screen, blindly fired off a shot at a plane they hoped or assumed was an enemy plane.

There are numerous problems with this scenario, however.

First of all, the Buk TELAR which fired off the fatal round had not been captured by militants from the Ukrainian military. The UK-based group Bellingcat has carried out an investigation using images sourced from online social-media accounts and found that the Buk had been sent to Donetsk from a Russian military based. At the time Russia was funneling military personnel into the conflict and presumably the Buk’s crew were among them, since a Buk cannot be operated without training. As former Eastern Bloc missile-battery officer Andras Kuscsma told me, “Training for the crew [takes] up to one year.”

Reuters points out that an equivalent US system, the Patriot missile, “requires 10 weeks of continuous training.”

It is unlikely that such an expensive, powerful, and dangerous weapon would have simply been handed over at random to untrained troops. In past proxy wars stirred up by Russia to control areas of the former Soviet Union, such has Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the country has deployed manpower and weapons but never systems as sophisticated as the Buk, says New York University professor Mark Galeotti, a specialist on the Russian military.

“Typically Russia has not needed or wanted to provide serious heavy kit, but the point is that advanced systems like the Buk are just that: advanced,” Galeotti says. “Cascading some older tanks or artillery to rebels is easy enough, as many will have served in the Soviet military and the systems are relatively straightforward. However, the technical skills required in using something like a Buk means either sending trained crews, or training them, or specially gathering rebels/volunteers who have that experience.”

The idea that Russia must have remained at least partially in control of the Buk has been endorsed by US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, who in the aftermath told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council that “Because of the technical complexity of the SA-11, it is unlikely that the separatists could effectively operate the system without assistance from knowledgeable personnel.”

There’s also something odd about the separatists’ early reports about the shoot-down.

According to research carried out by Bellingcat, the Buk launcher in question was in Donetsk around 8am. At 8.40am, it was photographed traveling between the cities of Donetsk and Torez. At 10.05, AP journalists saw it in the village of Snezhnoye. Over the next five hours, dozens of commercial planes flew overhead. Then, at 13:20, MH17 approached from the northwest. A missile was fired. Within ten minutes, bodies and wreckage were strewn over a 19 square mile area.

Immediately after the attack, you’ll recall, Igor Girkin boasted that his forces had shot down an Antonov-26 transport plane. Why would he have come to that conclusion? Since a Buk TELAR does not have the radar capacity to discriminate between aircraft types, nothing about the Malaysian jet’s appearance on the TELAR radar scope would have given its operators the idea that it was an An-26.

There is only one place that such an idea could have originated. Recall that, in the absence of a Target Acquisition Radar, the Buk TELAR must get its target information from an air defence network. Eastern Ukraine falls under the air defense umbrella of Russia; at the time of its shoot-down MH17 was being tracked by Russian air traffic controllers.

As Robert Beckhusen wrote in a blog post for Reuters:

“The BUK launcher is just one part of an entire air defense system,” Joseph Trevithick, a defense analyst and fellow at, told me in an email. “National air-traffic systems and local air-search radars assigned to the air-defense unit are supposed to bear the brunt of actually figuring out who’s a hostile and who’s a friendly or a neutral. There’s no indication that these separatists had anything besides the launcher, and would not have been able to readily ID their target or communicate with it first — even if they had wanted to.”

If the crew of the Buk TELAR at Snezhnoye believed that they were targeting an An-26, it could only have been because they were told that MH-17 was a Ukrainian Air Force An-26.

A third major oddity of the rogue-militant scenario is the way in which the news broke.

According to a transcript of air-traffic-control recordings published by Dutch investigators, ATC personnel at Dnipro Radar in Ukraine spent the first 15 minutes after the crash trying to call the plane. When the transcript ends at 13:49, they are still trying to determine what happened. Indeed, based on my research of publicly available accounts, it’s not all clear how aviation authorities eventually did realize that the plane had been shot down. But the timeline of subsequent events is revealing.

  • 13:50: A forum on Russian social media site VKontakte posts a report that militiamen in Donetsk have downed an An-26.
  • 14:15: Ukrainian aviation officials tell Malaysia Airlines that they have lost contact with the flight
  • 14:42: In a cell-phone conversation intercepted by Ukrainian intelligence, a militant tells a Russian military officer in eastern Ukraine, ““On TV they say it is like a Ukrainian AN-26… but the writing says “Malaysian Airlines”
  • ~14:50: The authorities shut the airspace over eastern Ukraine to all further traffic. Almost simultaneously, Russian President Vladimir Putin is getting on the phone with US President Obama. The day before, the United States imposed a round of sanctions against Russia in response to the escalating war in Ukraine, and Putin’s office has requested a phone call with Obama. This phone call, then, was something that Putin had specifically arranged and scheduled.

It’s striking that within minutes of people on the scene of the crash becoming aware that a Malaysian airliner had been shot down, Putin was starting a phone call in which he would personally break the news to the President of the US. Normally, it takes some time for information to travel up the chain of command all the way to the top; when the first plane impacted the World Trade Center on 9/11, for instance, President Bush didn’t learn about it until ten minutes later. Once he was informed that a second plane had hit the other tower, it took him at least eight or nine minutes to finish what he was doing (reading “The Pet Goat” with Florida schoolchildren) and go huddle with advisors.

The remarkable speed with which the news about MH17 was gathered, processed, and passed up the chain of command—and the remarkable coincidence that all this was happening at the exact moment that the President of Russia was about to get on a phone call he’d scheduled with the president of the US—become less remarkable if one posits that the bungling-militia scenario is not accurate but instead a counter-narrative assembled beforehand by Russia in order to deflect blame.

As Jonathan Mahler has written in the New York Times,

There are different ways to control a narrative. There’s the old-fashioned way: Classify documents that you don’t want seen and, as Gates said, ‘‘keep mum on the details.’’ But there’s also the more modern, social-media-savvy approach: Tell the story you want them to believe. Silence is one way to keep a secret. Talking is another.

In the case of MH17, I would suggest, Russia might have implemented a variation of this approach: offering up a version of events that seems utterly plausible because it seems inimicible to Russia. At the same time, Russia floated a more sympathetic version for the domestic market, one which laid blame for the shootdown at the feet of Ukraine and the West. This allowed them to maintain the illusion that they have not set up their separatist comrades in Donetsk as fall guys for an act that, if adjudged to be intentional, would surely rank as a serious war crime.

In the wake of the downing, Russia continually interfered with the forthright investigation of the tragedy, for instancing by attempting to scuttle an international criminal inquiry. In last month’s civil report, the Dutch Safety Board notes that the bodies of the pilots had been cut open in an attempt to remove shrapnel that would allow investigators to identify the responsible missile system.

As we await their official findings, Dutch criminal investigators have already revealed that they have identified as-yet unnamed “persons of interest” believed to be responsible. Based on what is already publicly known, one can can already surmise where the finger of blame will point.

34 thoughts on “Assigning Blame for MH17”

  1. Fascinating article. Awesome job, Jeff. First saw you as part of the CNN coverage on MH370. I’m now a follower of yours and huge fan. Cheers!

  2. @Jeff Honestly, I think that also in this case they all are silent yet for good reasons. And bellingcat is something like georesonance for me – no doubt that making stories possible here too.

  3. Given the tapestry into which the MH17 event is woven, I wouldn’t have thought a “premeditated!” conclusion would be surprising.

    Nor would I have expected any “it’s the OTHER superpower – NOT the one with which WE’RE allied!” sub-conclusion to knock many socks off, either.

    What WOULD surprise me would be for the conclusion – whatever it is – to change a single, solitary mind in the citizenry or EITHER superpower.

    I’m from Canada, so I have to say all this anti-Russian vitriol really stands out as materially less scientific than the more technical discussions we’ve had (and I’ve immensely enjoyed, for the record) in this forum. Up here, we tend to see the truth as the first casualty of war – on BOTH sides – which leaves everything soaked in rhetoric, and of limited truth value.

    For example: the content of the leaked phone conversation between Urmas Paet and Cathy Ashton, to any objective observer, suggests strongly that we should not be quite so sure who was actually behind the Maidan massacre which sparked the horrendous consequences Ukrainian citizens have suffered ever since. But folks in this forum – if I were permitted a gross generalization – seem to me to have their minds not quite this far open.

    I freely admit what I’m calling “open-mindedness” others might call “blissful ignorance” – that my Equal Opportunity approach to mistrusting superpowers is a product of Canada’s distance from any actual threat Mr. Putin might pose. What with Sarah patrolling the Western wall for us, and all…

  4. Ukraine was guilty for sending civilian plane over the area with active SAM battery (and they certainly knew it).

    Russia was guilty for handing out the incomplete launcher to relatively inexperienced rebels (there are many rebels who served in ukrainian air defense which operates the same BUK so no training needed), full well knowing they could make the mistake.

    So both Russia & Ukraine should be punished for negligency.

    It was not first time for them either, as both have shot down couple of civilian planes before, they should learn what responsibility is.

  5. StevanG – it wasn’t a solitary plane. There were planes 90 seconds to the front and rear. Plenty were using that route. It was still listed as safe – a safe commercial route and in active use by many airlines.

  6. It certainly appears set up. But what’s the motive? Why would Russia shoot it down? It would seem there would be better targets if you wanted to send a message. Maybe they shot down the wrong plane. Who else was in the air?

  7. Reading Jeff’s analysis of the timing of MH17 shootdown, it is interesting to look at timing of world events during the loss of MH370 which happened just after the invasion of Crimea. The invasion of Crimea was always going to generate headline media coverage because it was a blatant violation of international law.
    The Russians planned to explain the annexation of Crimea for history books in the following manner:
    – it had been part of Russia in the past
    – the population was mostly Russian
    – the people voted in a referendum to join Russia
    – there was no invasion because the troop levels were kept at the maximum 20,000 allowed under the treaty with Ukraine

    If the media coverage was expected to be overwhelmingly negative towards Russia, it would be naive to believe that the Russians wouldn’t take efforts to mitigate the negative coverage.
    So it is instructive to look at what was happening during the invasion:
    – masked elite soldiers were sent in without overt Russian insignia, and with ‘western’ style military garb; this causes a cognitive dissonance in the mind of the average western observer because the Ukrainians who faced these Russians were open faced and dressed in typically ‘Russian’ military fatigues
    – Ukrainians were accused of inciting ethnic division within Crimea, thus making the Russians the saviors of Crimea
    – Ukrainian military’s comms were jammed in Crimea, and they were forced to surrender through negotiations, or join the Russian military, thus preventing open warfare
    – referendum and parliament sessions were held to vote on joining Russia, thus legitimising the annexation
    – Russian passports were issued to the Crimeans, providing proof of citizenship

    It is clear from the outset of this invasion that preparation for the invasion was planned well in advance.
    Therefore, it can be concluded that the Russians anticipated negative publicity, and took specific steps designed solely to mitigate the negative publicity of the invasion.
    If the media coverage was overwhelming and negative in the early stages of the Crimean invasion, then the MH370 story reduced the intensity of that coverage, and neutralised the negative effects. Therefore, MH370’s disappearance directly affected the media coverage of the invasion of Crimea and was directly beneficial to the invaders of Crimea.
    Therefore, if the disappearance of MH370 was a deliberate act, and nobody appears to have benefited from it except Russia, it is not irrational to deny that it was a completely unanticipated coincidence.

  8. @Matty

    “StevanG – it wasn’t a solitary plane. There were planes 90 seconds to the front and rear. Plenty were using that route. It was still listed as safe – a safe commercial route and in active use by many airlines.”

    the planes usually went a bit northern route days before, the problem is that even to this day we don’t have ukrainian ATC recordings, why if they have nothing to hide?!

  9. Re: Russian fighter jet
    @Matbythesea: The flight path of the Turkey v Russia incident has magically changed. Someone has been busy…
    déjà vu #MH370.

    @Matbythesea: @mod_russia Now the blue line is the bad one.

  10. @CliffG
    Hi, you probably sourced here too, so I took time to provide free/condensed transcript. I can imagine that saturating media with something really big might also help to save lives during their operation. But who??

    Crimea, Way back to home (english subtitles)

    !!! intro, summary
    00:40 (Feb 22)
    – Putin: task for special services and defense ministry to save life of Ukrainian president
    – secret evacuation of president and his family possibly under fire by RightSector
    – tracing his position and negotiating with him, what he wants to do
    – considering returning Crimea to Russia because of Ukrainian violence and coup d’etat
    – only and only if sure that people there will want it

    03:15 (February 20, Kiev)
    – voilent protests at Maidan square
    – up to 100 dead people because of violence
    – (Feb 21) Yanukovich calls to Putin, goes to Kharkov (…not good idea by Putin)
    – Putin: warned Yanukovich not use more force against protesters (already bad enough)
    – nationalists opposition protesters took presidential office and government
    – president expected some negitiations with Kiev but it not happened
    – (Feb 22) Yanukovich in Kharkov wants to discuss with Putin
    – Maidan leaders appointed Turchinov to head Ukrainian parliament (unconstitutional)

    – Yanukovich in Kharkov: not resigning; stays president; coup d’etat in Kiev
    – EU Association Agreemend annouced by europeans with new ukrainian government
    – russian intelligence has signs that Maidan wants to hostage and liquidate him
    – Putin: (quoting Stalin sarcasm) “When there’s no person, there’s no problem.” …

    – Yanukovich calls Putin again but his convoy is already under fire…
    – so president was clearly removed from power and opposition wanted to capture/kill him
    – Putin: order to save life of ukrainian president and his family
    – Maidian forces has similar order to find him but for other reasons, using heavy guns
    – convoy directed to Crimea, but russian intelligence saw him on map in trouble

    – russians directed the convoy to known place of contact with special forces helicopters
    – 90 minutes finding them unsuccessfully, then directed to light they cars and found them

    – Yanukovich asked to move to Crimea, not into Russia immediatelly
    – only after several days when was clear that he is out of power, he moved to Russia
    – Putin: commented that he didnt stopped it all early, as he didnt want to use force…
    – Putin: “his inaction had grave consequences”, but cant blame him not having right to

    14:15 (Feb 20)
    – taken Kiev, nationalists hunted anyone who disagreed with how they took power…
    – ordinary people moved in bus convoys to anti-Maidan meetings to Crimea
    – armed RightSector violence used against ordinary people there
    – deadly violence against anti-Maidan bus, destruction, fire, hunts (“Korsun massacre”)

    21:10 (Feb 22)
    – Putin: we started to consider Crimea people help plans, “just these days”
    – only applicable if majority of people will wish it itself
    – never planned to cut Crimea from Ukraine before this coup d’etat
    – Simferopol asked by Kiev to demolish Lenin monument within next 10 days
    – Sergei Aksyonov peacefull leader of crimeans against nationalists
    – Berkut police members fired in Kiev are returning to Crimea, welcomed here

    – Berkut at Crimea switched their role from internal police to Crimea peace defense
    – Kiev promised to “restore order” in southeastern Ukraine where residents opposed Maidan
    – Putin: do everything possible to prevent bloodshed and tragedies similar as in Odessa
    – Arsen Avakov appointed as Ministry of Internal Affairs, ordered to disband Berkut
    – Berkut, considered now as illegal armed gang, all members in Crimea voted to stay in fight

    – Putin: Kiev opposition formally backed primarily by europeans
    – Putin: but some US groups helped to train combat units in Western Ukraine, Poland, etc.
    – Putin: in fact they used strenght and force to change government in such fragile country

    32:38 (Feb 23)
    – Putin: Sevastopol was always city of Russian naval glory, having military base here
    – Nowhere was love for Russia and anti-Bandera rallies as large as in Sevastopol
    – after Yeltsin disbanded USSR, Ukraine started to pushing Sevastopol slowly out of Russia
    – year by year, gradual changes in life, currency, passport control, schools, pre-schools
    – state television in Ukrainian language and nobody in city speaks that; slow changes
    – more than 40 laws passed to limit official use of Russian language in daily business
    – “Crimean Spring” her called as “third defense of Sevastopol” too

    37:55 (Feb 26)
    – Sevastopol, violence near Criema parliament

    – Crimean Tatars bad living under Ukraine government
    – in total 150 ethnic groups in Crimea

    – (Feb 24) some people calls to reunite with Russia
    – (Feb 27) expected train full of RightSector bandits, defenders awaits them
    – train arrived empty as Ukrainian inteligence warned about defenders
    – it took 3 hours to unload all the weapons left in train

    57:30 (Feb 27)
    – Aksyonov (new Crimea leader) ordered airport defense by civilian group
    – defenders weapons was only shovels broomsticks
    – they put fuel barrels on runway ready to fire them to prevend military landings

    – armored SBU guys arrived and ordered defenders to leave airport under guns
    – drama was ended by 4 trucks full of russian “polite” green-mans to help

    – Putin again: we never wanted to cut Crimea from Ukraine until coup d’etat
    – but then he personaly ordered to plan to help people there (75% agree)
    – not needed to comply with russian government as presence was under 20000

    – key government buildings secured including legitimate Crimea parliament
    – parliament voted for Aksyonov as new Crimea leader; Yanukovich confirmed him
    – everything formally valid by Ukrainian laws these days
    – russians was protecting parliament to continuously work as before
    – parliament voted for autonomy of Crimea by almost 100%

    1:11:00 (Feb 26-27 night)
    – Sergei Shoigu (russian defense minister) describes Crimea army operation
    – troops strictly instructed to be polite and to help only, not use force

    – Putin: everything worked because he personaly set direct orders
    – if leadership is vague and desintegrated, legitimity of orders is in question

    1:19:00 (Mar 1-18)
    – 450 Cosacs defended Ukrainian border together with former Berkuts
    – armored vehicles and rocket launchers detected near Crimea border from Ukraine
    – russians prepared in advance their heavy military hardware against them too

    – Shoigu, question: possibility of real provocation as in South Osetia (2008) ?
    – ukrainian army near Crimea border ready to start something similar as on East
    – when sure that impossible, they tried to destabilize Crimea from inside
    – cars and vans full of light guns, knives, grenades, grenade launchers ariving
    – defense at all costs to prevent guns entering Crimea

    – Putin: Crimea is historicaly important for Russia, with majority of Russians
    – Ukraine confronted Russia with complex issue, so Russia forced to help people
    – attack to Crimea failed from air and land, next way was from sea

    – nobody knew yet(?) that Russia deployed coast-defense system BASTION
    – its supersonic missile not catchable and detectable by current counter-systems
    – probably best in world weapon of this kind, they set it as “visible from space”

    – USS Donald Cook immediatelly U-turned at max-speed when locked by BASTION 🙂
    – Putin: it was not clear what other side will do; it was all risky business

    – Putin: althout situation was extremely complex and dramatic, ColdWar era
    was ended and we dont need international crises like the Carribean one…

    – SU-24 close-approach low flight over USS Donald Cook was done without order
    – Putin: they simply played game on they own and not reported it to him 🙂

    – Putin: need to disarm existing Ukrainian army and police at Crimea
    – 20000 troops, 48 S-300, 20 BUKs, …
    – AND to tell them not to fight against own poeple during preparation of refrendum

    1:36:00 (Mar 5)
    – Putin: our intelligence blocked any secure channels to block army orders from Kiev
    – any open channels considered unreliable, no will to take responsibility for bloodshed
    – only possible to pass orders personally, so general Koval took order to Yalta
    – members of motorcycle club NightWolves took general Koval just before arrival
    – ukrainian military personell didnt want bloodshed and/or Kiev nationalists support

    – general Koval – it was HE who initially got order to start war in Donbas/East
    – speaker Turchinov appointed him Defense Minister because of heroism at Yalta
    – general reported that he was took by russian “spetsnaz”(deltaforce) and paratroopers

    1:43:40 (March early days)
    – 20 units of ukrainian army switched to the russian side at Crimea
    – Kiev decided to bring criminal charges against commanders
    – Kiev wanted to launch operation on the day of Crimea referendum
    – public civilian activist not enough to disarm 20000 well-armed troops

    – Putin: order to deploy special units, marines and paratroopers to support there
    – 14 helicopters, 5 IL-76 to deploy thousands of soldiers from various units
    – 3500 personel added, all under limit of total 20000 allowed
    – quite challenge, since preventing bloodshed was absolute priority…
    – all self-defense forces joined the troops to neutralize ukrainian military units

    1:46:20 (Mar 19)
    – lenght confrontation at the Ukainian Navy HQ in Sevastopol ending these days
    – Kiev replaced several commanders because of sympathizing with Russia
    – negotiation of Russian and Ukrainian Navy helped by russian WWII veterans too
    – Russian Navy locked Ukrainian Navy inside harbor by scuttling 3 older ships
    – Admiral Vitko boarded trapped Ukrainian ships alone and unarmed to negotiate
    – Ukrainian military and navy personel behaved in a very dignified manner
    – some ships with Maidan suporters was took by russian military special forces
    – all russian actions was to prevent any use of force and violence

    1:52:10 (Mar 8)
    – new Crimean proscutor, Poklonskaya, ukrainian who didnt agreed with nationalists
    – RightSector took control of her office in Kiev, so she came home to Crimea
    – she met with Sergei Aksyonov with wish to help in any way she can…

    – Putin: deployment of anti-terrorist forces to Crimea, against RightSector
    – risks of mass terrorist acts, primarily on watter source “Simferopol Sea”

    – NightWolves motorcycle club activities during Crimea defense
    – Sevastopol bike show to remind Russian WWII military glory there
    – club unites like-minded people from many former Soviet republics and Europe
    – 10000 bikers, 100000 spectators (June 24, 2010 show)
    – these days, they did as much as possible to help to prevent violence too
    – they even found RightSector weapons store in secret cavern, saving lives

    – as Ukrainian military units joined Russia, danger of conflict lowered
    – 75 naval vessls and 139 land units together, often by theirs initiative
    – from 20000 ukrainian troops, only 2500 returned to Ukraine
    – Putin: result of long and hard work as new russian army is trained for peace

    2:06:40 (Mar 24)
    – over year classified operation of ONE battle with armed forces in Feodosia
    – in fact, fully-trained unit part of NATO RRF (aliance code L0318, L0001)
    – 3 weeks negotiations with them blocked; best forces on both sides…
    – russians fired live only to prevent ukrainians to take their weapons from store
    – after that, russians fired only blanks and catched them all without wounding
    – all deported then to Ukraine, where probably was reused in Eastern conflict…

    2:11:00 (Mar 16)
    – day of referendum: 96.7% voted to reunite with Russia
    – (Mar 14) Ukraine solidarity pool nearly of 50000 people in 83 Russian regions
    – 4 questions to support Ukraine and reunification: >85% average

    !!! really emotional comments too
    2:15:00 (Mar 18)
    – Putin: everything worked in team so well, that he sometimes wondered…
    – official acceptance of Crimea and Sevastopol as part of Russian Federation

    – interview was done soon after such events, excluding epilogue year later

  11. @falken Proper format or not, thank you for a such a thorough perspective

    @all 1 time only subject….we really have all become such prima donna’s, we remain egotistically clueless of actual truth for world events, unable to disseminate quality from quantity by sheer mass. There really are only 2 acceptable forms of truth, either having seen it yourself or extreme trust in another individual that has. This now massively reproduced has no accountability,

    Safety restrictions prohibit eyewitnesses of events in many parts of the world, if not for that, what determines accuracy? How powerful is the knowledge sourced from someone with a six figure income to distort it?

    Through our arrogance we are blindly abusing this world asset of communication, in which the information is worthless without the opportunity to KNOW. THIS comes from the opportunity to form respectful relationships throughout the world gaining knowledge by sharing expertise.

    I grew up in North Dakota, when my eyes are closed I can feel and smell that soil as yesterday. I know what grows there, when it grows, how it grows because I lived it. A pedologist would be a learned academic of soil gaining their primary knowledge academically. Any day of my life I will take the knowledge of one who has lived it over the one who has learned it.

    We need to take it down a few notches in this country for sure and re-evaluate what intelligence really is.

  12. The most interesting thing about the entire piece is the pre-scheduled phone call to Obama, which is seconded only by the the fact that there were tons of planes flying along the same path as MH17. When you include the tightly controlled sequence of events to get the Buk in place for the missile launch, it does indeed seem like Putin was trying to make a statement to Obama.
    But what could that statement be? I am an American from Texas and I voted for Obama. Twice.
    I’ve always thought, though, that the greatest threat to our safety would come from asymmetrical warfare through terrorists…especially if the terrorists were secretly sponsored by the state.
    All along I have agreed with Jeff that Russia has played some role in the disappearance of MH370, especially after the MH17 incident.

    Now, however, I am going to move into speculative fiction mode and propose a question: what if it wasn’t a rogue organization sponsored by Russia that made MH370 disappear? What if it was the U.S.? Would the U.S. resort to setting up a “terrorist” organization in order to accomplish certain things that the world might deem distasteful if the U.S. outright owned them?

    Perhaps this was Putin’s way of telling Obama, “Hey, I know what you did, and two can play at this game.”

    I invite you to analyze my comments and rip them to shreds. Like I say, my thoughts are merely speculative fiction…but to me it is a question worth pondering.
    In some ways it would be in every super powers’ best interest to fund secret organizations to do the dirty work. The U.S. has done this for years, but we don’t call our organizations terrorist groups just like we don’t call mass school shootings, or abortion clinic shootings or “Black Lives Matters” shootings terrorist attacks. OF COURSE, I am not suggesting that any of those other things are state sponsored terrorism. But we often call the guys who do our dirty work “private contractors.”

    Let’s at least be real about who we are as Americans: we like to keep a clean image, and we don’t like getting our hands dirty. But one way or the other, that dirty work does get done. It’s the only way we can remain the superpower that we are.

  13. @Roberta: I appreciated reading your thoughtful and comparatively balanced analysis.

    Re: your last sentence: I believe precisely the opposite. Descending into the gutter (media manipulation, black ops, wars for oil, torture) – PARTICULARLY whilst in Boy Scout uniform – is a sure path to destruction.

    Without moral authority, a superpower’s influence tends to drain AWAY – requiring increasingly draconian measures to retain it. An empire in which the desire to win has overtaken the desire to maintain standards is an empire in its death spiral.

  14. @Brock
    On a fundamental level I agree; any route that seeks only to profit without considering the moral implications is sure to be ruinous in the long run. Just look at what happened with the mortgage crisis.
    So…the real question here is which of the governments involved is in a death spiral? Someone is up to no good.

  15. @Susie
    thanks too, I hope its accurate to docudrama content – best is to view it personally; and yes, I trust them, the governments, at least the big ones (us, russia, china, …), that they are trying to do its best these years, about terrorism, about climate etc; somebody can call me naive, but its far more dangerous to be paranoid and blame governments for all bad things in the world – this is what some private groups are trying to force through some media, often called independent – so I rather really skip all “guys in the middle”, seeking for direct speeches and exact citations, trying to peek inside leaders minds to check their honesty; finally, everybody on Earth has his own North Dakota and in all sides of the world, everybody wants peace, except few bastards

  16. @falken & Susie

    People might benefit from a read or re-read of “Atlas Shrugged”. While much longer than it needs to be, it is a good metaphor for the dystopia into which world governments are leading us under the guise of saving the world.

  17. Hi all, sorry for another one off-topic, but, maybe finally, not so much. Following article describes how difficult can be to be russian (I am not, having lot of reasons to hate them, which isnt happening, thanks God). Its about Kaspersky antivirus software… I am currently seeking for some and initially found some wannabe comparison site (, where leads VIPRE thing and Kaspersky is scored quite bad… Ummm, as it looks weird, digging deeper for more information, one finds that VIPRE based in Clearwaater, FL has scientologists in leadership (red-alert), and other well-known comparison companies (, prove that VIPRE is in fact not so good one almost in nothing… and russian Kaspersky together with US BitDefender are almost the best, followed by ESET, AVG, etc… (I dont want to promote any of them, but today, its the good thing to consider – I lived well with windows built-in defender/essentials and my own brain, but its more and more difficult… AVG saved me from ugly malware recently). The article is simply also about media stupidity, what is related to our case too, it seems.

  18. @DennisW thanks for suggestion, will try, but I really rather spend time inside our reality, virtual enough to investigate, you know…

  19. @sinux

    Thanks for the link to the Flight QZ-8501 final report.

    From paragraph 2.4 of the report:

    After electrical interruption the autopilot disengaged and the ruder deflected at 2° then the aircraft rolled to the left without pilot input with a rate of 6° per second. This rate of roll was two times faster than normal roll rate operation. The SIC who acted as Pilot Flying responded 9 seconds after the autopilot off when the roll angle had reached 54°.

    Anyone remember tests in a B777 flight simulator with a mis-trimmed rudder?

  20. @falken
    When hearts are pure, good will eventually trump evil. You heart was pure when you gave food to your friends who otherwise would have gone without. Criticism can be a trap, a no strings attached mentality that can be enticingly easy to do.
    Positive thought can expose vulnerability and often requires more effort, I appreciate your comments nudging me toward the more constructive
    Never read it, cannot recall if deliberate or not. Starting the read tonight, thanks

  21. @Gysbreght

    Some other points of comparison :
    1. The crew didn’t acknowledge ATC comms @2315:35.

    Nothing nefarious about that. Just too busy with an other problem.

    2. Even if the problem had started 2min before that, they didn’t report it to ATC.

    3. The crew pulled circuit breakers in an attempt to fix a problem and made it worse, even though this is not allowed.

    4. The crew lost situational awareness.

    Now what if something similar happened to MH370?
    – Problem small enough to not be reported
    – Corrective action by crew not following the procedures
    – Leads to unanticipated consequences that are unrecoverable ( and even possibly fatal to some/all passengers )

  22. @sinux

    it went along thai border and around Indonesia with intention, somebody had to fly the damn thing

  23. MH17 – you may recall that the Australian PM at the time(Tony Abbott), took it very personally that 38 Australians got shot out of the sky and made the now infamous remark to “shirtfront” Vladamir Putin. Indeed he was the most vocal of all national leaders in the aftermath, and there was precious little blowback from anywhere else. Today I read how little the current US administration cared about the issue.

    For info – Julie Bishop is Australia’s foreign minister from the Sydney Morning Herald.

    “Ten months later, Russia was still ridiculing Abbott in international meetings, wanting to know when he was going to get around to carrying out his threat.
    Russia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Sergey Lavrov, at a meeting with counterparts from nine other countries on August 6 in Kuala Lumpur, put it to Julie Bishop in his gravelly, heavily accented voice: “Is your prime minister still going to shirtfront my president?”
    The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, jumped in. “Yeah,” he said, “we’ve been putting money on the result, and we’re backing Putin.”
    Bishop shut down the levity with a curt, “thank you for that, John” and returned the discussion to the agenda for the meeting, the ASEAN Regional Forum ministerial meeting.”

    Kerry represents a government that has avoided ruffling Putin at every opportunity. At times I have had a hunch that the indifference to MH370 and MH17 was down to the same thing.

  24. @StevanG
    “it went along thai border”

    If I were a Turkish General I would rather say : “it made a 50km incursion into Thailand as far as 20km inside Thailand. That’s why we had to shoot it down…” 😉

    But that’s just semantics.
    It more or less flew along B219 (we have no clue about the radar precision). See Oleksandr’s latest technical note for another explanation.

    Air Asia also went off course, yet there was nothing nefarious about that. If the crew had recovered the plane it would even have been flying in the opposite direction as the flight plan (at least for a while until the crew could navigate again).

    @Matty – Perth
    In connection to @Roberta’s comment earlier.
    How about her idea in reverse :
    Russia takes MH370 to cover up Crimea invasion.
    US frames Russia with MH17. Sends the message : ” we know what you’ve done, we can’t prove it. See what we can do and you can’t prove it. So stop this nonsense”.

    Abbott wouldn’t have known the whole story when he made his comments, being briefed (if ever) only afterwards. And now the Russians mock him for that.

  25. An interesting article.I saw the TELAR system in Donetsk that day AND its TAR system as well.I even met some of the crew who were looking after it at Battalion Vostok base.We know it was shot down to bring world condemnation against Ukraine to support the Russians work .The IFF transponder signals were turned off or ignored by the crew in order for them to shoot it down.Why else would you launch a missile at a plane flying at 10000 metres , 100 or so kilometres from the Russian border? Where was it going to land if you thought it was an enemy aircraft?I feel terrible for those poor 298 people I saw personally lying on the ground at the crash site.No one seems to care about them it seems, they have become a topic of political grandstanding it seems.It does not seem to matter to anyone now, most of the launcher crew are dead or in hiding and the launcher destroyed.Too many people who WERE NOT THERE as we still are , seem to like making money out of this event and that annoys me and infuriates me a lot.Think about the victims please and the people on the ground affected by this tragedy……

  26. “It more or less flew along B219 (we have no clue about the radar precision). ”

    We don’t but we have clear statements from thai officials that it flew along their border (and likely violated it partly).

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