It came from Russia – or who shot down MH17?

by on September 29, 2016 in International affairs

The ‘Joint Investigation Team’ in the Netherlands has concluded that Malaysia airline MH17 which was shot down over Ukrainine in July 2014 was shot down by a BUK missile system which ‘came from Russia’.

The Investigation Team was made up of representatives from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine. 4 of these countries are currently engaged in waging economic warfare against Russia the express aim of which is to wipe Russia off the map. [1] Much of the evidence for the inquiry was supplied by the intelligence services of the country in direct conflict with Russia – Ukraine. It is an accepted part of the role of intelligence services to supply either fabricated or at least selectively misleading information in pursuit of their national interests. The inquiry has no basis of credability. It is hardly news that it found that the missile launcher came from Russia.

The press release of the Joint Investigation team makes interesting reading. [2] We can note the following:

The text claims irrefutable evidence that the flight was shot down by a BUK missile. But we can note that the claim relating to where the missile was fired from (a field in militia held territory) is not described as irrefutable.

Nonetheless the report claims that the BUK missile was driven into Ukraine from Russia. This is the relevant text:

The JIT has been able to identify a large part of the route concerning the arrival and the departure of the BUK-TELAR. This was the result of intercepted telephone conversations, witness statements, photographs and videos that had been posted on social media, and a video never shown before which was obtained from a witness. The system was transported from Russian territory into eastern Ukraine and was later transported on a white Volvo truck with a low-boy trailer. The truck was escorted by several other vehicles and by armed men in uniform.

Once again – social media seems to feature surprisingly heavily in accusations of ‘Russian involvement’ – and in places where you’d least expect it – such as State Department briefings and criminal investigations. One would hope that justice in an ordinary court in the Netherlands does not depend on “photographs and videos that had been posted on social media”.  The intercepted telephone calls were provided it seems by Ukrainian intelligence (at least such calls were released by them very soon after the event). The “video never before shown” sounds like a trailer for an edition of Crimewatch, not a serious piece of investigation. And, again, one wonders who supplied this material? Was the investigation team aware that videos can be fabricated? That, for example, a video shot at twilight of a BUK missile launcher with an empty tube clearly visible driving through a village in the direction of Russia could be staged theatrically?

More information on the “intercepted telephone calls” including audios of the calls themselves can be found on the Joint Investigation Team’s web site. [3] The case that the militias were supplied with a BUK missile system from Russia seems to depend on these calls. That the calls are what they purport to be we have to take on trust… The claims about the location from which the missile was fired seem to depend on unnamed witnesses. (It is also possible that two missiles were fired – one destroyed MH17 and one missed another target. In this scenario the witness sightings may be valid but not the proof they are taken to be).

Immediately after the downing of the flight the US claimed to have satellite data showing that the missile came from militia held territory. [4] This information has never made it into the public domain. However it seems that intelligence staff from the US have briefed the investigation and this briefing is claimed to be material which could be ‘used in  court’. (In fact anything can be ‘used in court’ so it is not quite clear why this meaningless phrase appears in the report, other than to add shine to some shaky evidence):

In response to a Dutch request for legal assistance, the US submitted a report in which they present their assessment of the information regarding the shooting down of flight MH17. This report can be used in court. The conclusion of the American authorities is that flight MH17 was shot down by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile, i.e. a BUK-missile, which was launched from a site about six kilometres south of the village of Snizhne in Eastern Ukraine. This is consistent with the distance to aforementioned launch site near Pervomaiskiy. The US also explain how they reached this conclusion. In addition, they mention that they are sure of the fact that the Ukrainian air defence systems could not have done it and that an air-to-air scenario is impossible.

The Dutch Military Intelligence Service (MIVD) and the (Dutch) National Public Prosecutor on Terrorism have been able to view the underlying state-secret (intelligence) material and based on that information and the explanation provided, they support the fact that this conclusion is drawn. [3]

Again – we can ask is a claim by a highly interested party that they are “sure” one side (their allies as it happens) “could not have done it” really a normal standard for a criminal trial? Obviously not.

The political, media and think-tank classes in the West have been screaming for 2 years that Russia is arming the militias in Eastern Ukraine and is denying it. Ie. the claim is that Russia is operating a policy of plausiable denilability. It is very difficult to see how to equate this policy (if it is indeed the policy of Russia – which it may well be) with supplying a BUK missile system to the militias. Such a system – even without the tragic shooting down of a civilian airliner – would quite obviously be traced to Russia. Other aspects of the story developed by Ukranian intelligence are unlikely. For example; they spent months telling everyone about convoys of Russian armour crossing the border but were not able to provide photos or videos. But straight after this event they happened to have an agent in place who was able to film the BUK missile launcher being driven back to Russia with one of its missile tubes guiltily empty. [5] If this really was the implicated BUK launcher surely someone would have thrown a tarpaulin over the back of the truck? And – what about the ‘armed men’ who the JIT claims accompanied the truck on its way into Ukraine? [2] No sign of them on the way back.

There are 4 main possible scenarios of how this tragic event happened:

1. It was a plot by a cell within the Ukrainian intelligence to frame Russia and whip up support for their cause in the West. Certainly there was a strong feeling amongst the post-Maidan Ukrainian nationalists that the West was not fully supporting them and did not appreciate how dangerous Russia was. What better way of changing this attitude than shooting down a jet full of Dutch holiday-makers and pinning the crime on Russia?

2. It was accidentally shot down by Kiev’s forces mistaking it for a Russian jet. They had been claiming that Russian fighter jets had invaded their air-space. Russia showed satellite imagery which they claimed showed Kiev’s BUK’s deployed within range of the destroyed airline. [6] This has not been explained.

3. The militias captured an old BUK system from the Ukrainian army. Not knowing properly how to use it they made a mistake and shot down a civlian airliner. This is quite possible. However; the Ukranian Ministry of Defence has repeatedly said that all their BUKs were accounted for. [7] Without this statement this hypothesis would have to be seriously considered.

4. Russia supplied the militias with a BUK – either with or without operatives. Since it would not have been in the militias’ interests to shoot down a passenger plane this scenario envisages a mistake being made. This in turn suggests untrained operators. Would Russia really hand over one of their advanced air-defence systems to the militias in Eastern Ukraine and leave them to get on with it? There is also an insiduous suggestion from the JIT that it could have come from Russia but without state involvement. [8]

A final possible scenario is a combination of 1. and 4. or 1. and 3. The militias shot down the civilian airliner but they were tricked into doing so by a Kiev fighter jet luring them to launch a missile close to an airliner.

As long as the investigation is conducted by one side and is based on ‘intelligence’ material provided by intelligence services of countries who are party to the conflict we cannot sensibly rely on it. At this point then a rational person cannot form a definite view.

 

Notes

1. As is graphically depicted in this State Department video.

2. https://www.om.nl/onderwerpen/mh17-crash/@96068/jit-flight-mh17-shot/

3. Full report by the Joint Investigation team. Audio: https://www.politie.nl/themas/flight-mh17-2.html

4. https://www.rt.com/news/334358-dutch-question-mh17-investigation/

5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsbC8yDeGUw

6. https://www.rt.com/news/174496-malaysia-crash-russia-questions/

7. http://thenewobserver.co.uk/who-shot-down-the-malaysian-plane-over-ukraine-2/

8. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/28/mh17-investigation-prosecutors-to-reveal-where-missile-that-down/

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