The latest MH17 investigation report based on 'new evidence' produced by Ukraine is full of holes
At a press conference of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in The Hague today, police, prosecutors and intelligence agents from The Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine have revealed that they have found evidence from a freshly identified Ukrainian “mobile radar”, from secret Ukrainian air traffic controller tapes, and from secret US satellite imagery on the destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.
The conclusion reported by JIT is that a BUK missile caused the destruction of the aircraft; that it was brought into Ukraine from Russia and removed to Russia after launch; that it was fired from a patch of farmland near Snizhne, east of the approaching MH17; and that “one hundred persons can be linked” to the movement and operation of the BUK system. The JIT also announced that no identifications of these people have been made, and that at present there are no “official suspects” .
“We need a clear impression of the chain of command”, declared Fred Westerbeke, the principal Dutch member of the investigation and JIT spokesman. “We appeal for cooperative witnesses”, he said, adding “I can’t tell you how long this investigation will take.” According to the JIT presentation from Westerbeke and a Dutch police officer, Wilbert Paulissen , further investigation is expected to last until at least January 2018.
Westerbeke claimed his group, currently numbering “nearly one hundred”, is continuing to prepare “legal and convincing evidence meeting a very high standard”.
Lawyers and analysts observing the presentation have expressed doubt that the secret Ukrainian and American government evidence can be admissible in court. On questioning by a sceptical Dutch journalist, Westerbeke acknowledged that all the telephone intercepts and wiretaps reported as evidence of Russian involvement in the reported missile operation originated from the Ukrainian secret service. Evidence of the missile movement, ground launch, and smoke trail from social media, photographs and videotapes, and purported witnesses presented at today’s JIT session have all appeared publicly before; much of it already discredited as fakes.
In an unusual disclosure, the JIT revealed it has confirmed only two pieces of warhead shrapnel from a BUK missile warhead in the MH17, one found in a body in the cockpit, and one in the cockpit frame. Until now, the Dutch Safety Board and the JIT have been claiming there were four pieces of shrapnel to substantiate the alleged BUK missile firing, three of them of a bow-tie or butterfly shape, and one of square shape. For more details, read this.
The JIT acknowledged today that it was aware of additional Russian radar and missile detonation evidence, but that it had not yet had time to receive it or investigate it. According to Paulissen, “the absence of evidence [of the Buk missile system in the Russian material] does not prove it was not there.”
“The quantity of the other evidence we have doesn’t lead us to another conclusion.” Westerbeke also claimed that the unreceived and uninvestigated evidence from Moscow proves the JIT’s case that there was no aircraft attack on the MH17. “Even the Russian Federation has concluded,” Westerbeke said, “that no aircraft could have shot down [MH17]”.
He was referring to the public briefing by the Russian Defence Ministry on Monday. The presentation then of what was described as new radar evidence turns out, Russian military sources now say, to have been of a civil radar source, with insufficient technical capacity to match the Russian military radar evidence presented by the Ministry two years ago, at a press briefing on July 21, 2014. For the transcript and video of that presentation, click here. For a comparison of the Russian government briefing, and the US government briefing which followed a day later, read this.
The apparent contradictions between the two Russian radar sources has been marked as a propaganda victory by Russian critics at NATO. The presentation of the civil radar evidence “ was a rather bad variant,” the Russian military source says. “An example of inconsistency, even a mistake.”
Here is the full Russian briefing, with English voice-over translation.
The interpreter failed to identify Air Force General Andrei Koban’s name correctly.
Here is the Google map of the area covered by the radar images and interpretations, with the location of the Utyos-T station at Ust-Donetsk marked in red:
According to Meshcheryakov’s presentation, there are a series of radar images for about fifteen minutes before MH17 reached the point of attack and began to break up in the air. Taking into account the 10-second delays between successive radar images, this is the Utyos-T map of the last 60 seconds before MH17’s destruction, apparently showing civilian flight #4722, behind MH17 and 600 metres higher at 10,670m, flying at the slightly slower speed of 888 km/h:
After the explosive detonation, this is the Utyos-T image of the cockpit and other parts of the MH17 separating from the main fuselage:
“These data tell us,” concluded Meshcheryakov, “that the Ust-Donetsk radar station did not see any objects near the Boeing Flight MH17 which could become the reason for its disintegration”. He said — but he didn’t illustrate with radar images — that the area of the MH17’s flight path was monitored for “several minutes” after the aircraft’s destruction.
General Koban repeated the conclusion with data for eight minutes after detonation:
“No aerial objects approached the aircraft [MH17] from the east before its disintegration…We need to point out that the equipment of the Russian radar station does not allow us to see whether any aerial projectiles had been launched at Boeing from the south or from the west” (tape minute. 15:26).
The apparent contradiction between the Utyos-T radar evidence, as presented by Meshcheryakov and Koban, and the earlier, two-year old Defence Ministry presentation can be seen from this diagram of the radar images as presented, then interpreted by Colonel-General A.V.Kartapolov. At the time Kartapolov was Deputy Chief of the General Staff and one rank lower. For a US Army assessment that Kartapolov mimics American war-fighting concepts, read page 5 of this.
Kartapolov explained the meaning of this diagram:
“At that time there were 3 civilian aircrafts: Flight from Copenhagen to Singapore at 17.17; Flight from Paris to Taipei at 17.24; Flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur [MH17]. Besides it, Russian system of air control detected the Ukrainian Air Force aircraft, purposed [sic] Su-25, moving upwards toward to the Malaysian Boeing-777. The distance between aircrafts was 3-5 kilometers.”
He went on:
“Su-25 can gain an altitude of 10000 meters for a short time. It is armed with air-to-air missile R-60 able to lock-on and destroy target at a distance of 12 kilometers, and destroy it definitely at a distance of 5 kilometers.” Kartapolov did not say the Russians had evidence that the Su-25 had fired either missiles or cannon at MH17. Instead, he asked the question: “What was the mission of the combat aircraft on the airway of civilian aircrafts almost at the same time and same altitude with the civilian craft? We want to have this question answered.”
"The video of the Rostov Aerial Center of the Joint Air Traffic Management System can corroborate the information. The Chief of Staff of the Air Force Lieutenant-General Igor Makushev will comment the video.”
Makushev did exactly that, again speaking on July 21, 2014. Note that Makushev explained why the military intruder had not been picked up by Russian radars until after it climbed above 5,000 metres.
“All the three aircraft have been steadily monitored by the three radar stations of the air traffic control of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. Boeing-777 is moving towards the Russian Federation state boundary and is to cross it in the point of «TONAK». An air traffic control officer has been controlling the aircraft flight and keeps on enquiring its flight variables to compare them with the given ones. At 17.20 P.M. at the distance of 51 kilometers from the Russian Federation state boundary and the azimuth of 300 degrees the aircraft started to lose its speed obstructively which is quite distinctively to be seen on the table of the aircraft characteristics.”
“At 17.21 35 seconds P.M. with the aircraft speed of 200 km/h at the point of the Boeing crash there is a new mark of the aircraft to be seen. The aircraft was steadily monitored by radar stations of Ust-Donetsk and Butirinskoe during 4 minutes period. Air control officer having enquired the characteristics of newly appeared aircraft couldn’t possibly get them because it is in all likelihood that the aircraft had no secondary deduction system amounted on it, which is put typically for military aircraft. The early detection of this aircraft appeared to be quite impossible because the air situation control is usually performed by radars working in a standby mode which detection possibilities at the given distance are over 5000 m altitude.”
“The aircraft was steadily monitored by radar stations of Ust-Donetsk and Butirinskoe during 4 minutes period.” In retrospect,
Makushev implied that the Ust-Donetsk station, where the Utyos-T radar was based, detected the Ukrainian military aircraft.
How was it possible to see on radar screen shots presented on July 21, 2014 when the radar screen shots presented this week were apparently empty of the smoking-gun evidence? Dutch, American and NATO critics of Russian veracity claim the first images were fabrications, and the most recent ones expose the Defence Ministry contradicting itself, and lying.
A Russian propagandist, Alexander Mercouris, claims:
"During what was apparently a joint presentation by the Russian missile manufacturer Almaz Antey and the Russian military in Moscow, raw radar data was apparently released which allegedly disproves Ukrainian claims that MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile launched from militia controlled territory, and specifically from the town of Snizhnoe from where the Ukrainians claim the BUK missile was launched. The data thereby supposedly confirms that only the Ukrainians could have shot down MH-17… even if it is proved beyond reasonable doubt that the new data is genuine, I doubt that will be enough to convince some people.”
A Dutch propagandist, Robert van de Roer, quoted by an English one, claims:
“Creating contradictions/confusion is part of Russian propaganda, from #mh17 to Aleppo’s food convoy. The diplomatic West has no answer yet.” A Swedish propagandist, Carl Bildt, claims: “Today Russia Defence Ministry acknowledge it lied before about MH17. But doesn’t mean they are coming clean now.”
The JIT briefing in The Netherlands today did not respond to the Utyos-T data. “They have not yet been handed over and not investigated yet”, said the Dutch police presenter Paulissen. He dismissed the Russian Defence Ministry claim that no missile firing had been detected from the Snizhne area. That, said Paulissen, “is incorrect.” According to Westerbeke, “we are not making any statements about Russia as a country or about Russians.”
Reconsidering this week’s Russian Defence Ministry presentation of the Utyos-T evidence, here is a sectioned image of the westward sector, with the radar station at the extreme lower right corner:
The three yellow lines from upper left to right are the trajectories of the three civilian aircraft frying west to east; they include MH17, which is marked as #0143.
According to the presentations by Meshcheryakov and Koban, the range of the Utyos-T radar system was between 360 and 400 kms for primary and secondary identification. That meant coverage of Ukraine Army-occupied areas up to 100 kms west of Donetsk city. When MH17 was first detected by the secondary radar locator, Meshcheryakov said it was at a range of 404 kms west of the station at 1304 local time. Then at 1307 it was picked up by the primary radar locator. It was measured as flying at 906km/h. The evidence shows that it continued on course, flying intact for another 15 minutes at that speed. That means it made about 227 kms from west to east. This also means that for that period of time, the Utyos-T data clearly show a range west of the destruction point of at least 227 kms up to 404 kms.
Also shown on the radar map screen are the trajectories of civilian flights #4722 flying north of MH17, and #1775 flying northwest-southeast, crossing the MH17’s flight path. The second is reported by Meshcheryakov to have been 30 kms from MH17 in the last minutes. How was it possible for Utyos-T to detect and map these trajectories west and south before and during the MH17 flight, if the generals now claim that the system lacked range or capability to detect objects west or south in the last minutes? How was it possible for the Utyos-T radar tracking to miss what Gen Kartapolov’s presentation revealed on July 21, 2014? Is it possible that the military intruder, identified as an Su-25, could remain under the Utyos-T radar, and then at detectable height and range be invisible? Even if the July 21, 2014, radar evidence purports to be for minutes after the aircraft detonation, what can explain invisibility for minutes beforehand?
Finally, if all one had for evidence from the Russian side was the Utyos-T radar data, what can have caused the aircraft’s destruction without being visible for 15 minutes before that happened?
Independent Dutch and German analysts who have been investigating the MH17 case since it began do not reply on the record. A German analyst, who does not wish to be identified, comments:
“My point of view is: Russia doesn’t answer to Western propaganda. The Bellingcats of the world distorted the MoD press conference from July 21,2014 by saying Moscow suggested that an SU-25 shot down MH17. The official Moscow never claimed it… of course Ukraine military planes were in the air that day. Most probably some of them under 5 km, below the Russian radar (that’s why inhabitants could see them under the layer of clouds). With the exception of this one plane, which rose above 5 km 1.35 minutes after the shooting. At the press conference today [September 26, 2016] they said that they show ‘random’ primary radar reflections of the disintegration of MH17, but not the surveillance after this, which continued for at least 4 minutes. So they held back less valuable material. Less valuable in Moscow’s eyes.”
On July 21, 2014, following the Defence Ministry presentation in Moscow, the US State Department spokesman, Marie Harf (pictured below), refused to respond directly. “I haven’t seen any of that,” she said.
“Our assessment [is] that this was an SA-11 fired from Russian-backed, separatist-controlled territory; that we know – we saw in social media afterwards, we saw videos, we saw photos of the pro-Russian separatists bragging about shooting down an aircraft that then they then – they then – they then – excuse me – took down once it became clear that it may have been a passenger airline. There is a preponderance of evidence at this point both sort of out there in the public domain and also from our information that points to the fact that there was a SA-11 launched from separatist-controlled territory.”
This Monday, US reporters did not ask, and there was no response from the State Department to the new Defence Ministry presentation.
A credible Russian military source explains the discrepancy between the radar imagery and evidence two years apart. “MinDef have their own radar systems which are more sensitive for spotting high-speed flying objects like missiles or aircraft. Utyos-T is a civil radar system which could have missed such flying objects.” Asked if presenting the Utyos-T data this week contradicted the earlier military radar presentation, the source replied: “Yes, it was a rather bad variant, an example of inconsistency, even a mistake.”