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BUK Manufacturer Almaz-Antey Speaks Out on MH17 Tragedy

Presentation provided by Almaz-Antey debunks SU 25 theory and points to MH17 having been shot down by a Ukrainian controlled BUK missile launched from Zaroschshenskoe.

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This post first appeared on Russia Insider

The theory that one of the BUK missile launchers controlled by the Ukrainian military and shown by the Russian satellite imagery shot down MH17 has now received strong public endorsement as a result of a presentation made today (2nd June 2015) by the BUK missile system’s manufacturer Almaz-Antey.

The presentation was made in connection with Almaz-Antey’s case in the European Court of Justice to have the sanctions imposed upon it lifted. The same findings presumably will also be made available to the two official inquiries investigating the MH17 tragedy.

Almaz-Antey’s presentation incidentally shows that the engineers’ report previously published by the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which I discussed previously (see Russian Report Points to Ukrainian BUK Missile as Responsible for MH17 Tragedy, Russia Insider, 8th May 2015) was prepared for or by Almaz-Antey.

The Almaz-Antey presentation confirms MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile, burying once and for all the SU 25 theory, about which regular readers of Russia Insider will know I have always been skeptical.  

As regular readers of Russia Insider will also know, I have always vigorously opposed what I have always insisted was the false binary: SU 25 = Ukrainians / BUK missile = militia.

As to that, let me repeat again that contrary to various claims, the SU 25 theory has never been publicly endorsed by the Russian government.

On the strength of a technical study of the aircraft damage Almaz-Antey claims MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile of a type not made in Russia since 1999.

Almaz-Antey claims the BUK was launched from near the settlement of Zaroschshenskoe, which is in the area where the Russian satellite imagery show a Ukrainian BUK missile launcher present on the day of the tragedy.

Almaz-Antey rules out on technical grounds any possibility of MH17 having been shot down by a BUK missile launched from Snizhnoe, which is the theory favoured by those who say MH17 was shot down by the militia.

As the BUK missile system’s manufacturer Almaz-Antey’s opinions carry particular weight and this is by some distance the most authoritative discussion of the cause of the tragedy we have seen to date.

Almaz-Antey’s evidence is what lawyers call “opinion evidence”.  However it is the opinion evidence of an expert, in this case of the manufacturer of the system in question, produced moreover for use in a court case. As the BUK missile system’s manufacturer Almaz-Antey must be considered the best qualified experts in this field. In most legal proceedings involving a BUK missile their opinion would be considered conclusive.

Perhaps in anticipation of Almaz-Antey’s presentation, the British Bellingcat blog, which has been amongst the most fervid proponents of the theory that MH17 was shot down from Snizhnoe by a BUK missile provided to the militia by the Russians, has published its own report that seeks to cast doubt on the Russian satellite imagery.  

In my first discussion of MH17 published by Russia Insider (see MH17: The Facts and the Cover-Up, Russia Insider, 3rd December 2014) I said the Russia satellite imagery had to be treated as among the evidence that is completely reliable. I said that though the Ukrainians had tried to dispute the evidence they had done so in such an unconvincing way that it effectively confirmed its truth.

Significantly the US, which is in a position to know one way or the other (Almaz-Antey has confirmed US satellites were over the area on the day of the tragedy), has never publicly challenged the Russian satellite imagery.  

Nor has the BND, the German intelligence agency, which has however (according to reports) privately informed the German parliament and government that some of the photographs produced by the Ukrainians were fakes.

I have not discussed Bellingcat in my previous discussions because I do not fully understand what they are about.  

So far as I can tell they appear to be undertaking their own investigation of the MH17 tragedy in parallel with the two official ones.  

As there are two official investigations of the tragedy underway, both working under a Security Council mandate whose conduct Bellingcat (unlike me) completely endorses, I do not understand the point of this.

Amateur investigations of a crime or tragedy, conducted simultaneously with an official investigation, are the bane of a professional investigator’s life.  

More often than not they throw up false leads, which the professional investigator then has to waste precious time and resources investigating.  

By publicising false theories to potential witnesses they also risk contaminating the evidence pool, making the conduct of the official investigation much harder.

This is because, almost by definition, amateur investigators seek to prove true whatever theory they have adopted.  Inevitably this causes them to shape the facts to suit their theory.

Bellingcat’s report on the Russian satellite imagery is a case in point. 

Given the vested interest Bellingcat has in this matter as one of the chief proponents of the Snizhnoe theory, it is strongly motivated to find reasons to debunk the Russian satellite imagery, given that in conjunction with Almaz-Antey presentation the Russian satellite imagery is potentially fatal to the Snizhnoe theory. That all but guarantees that any report Bellingcat produces is going to find reasons to question the Russian satellite images.

Sure enough, that is precisely what has happened.  Equally predictably, Russian sources are already finding grounds to ridicule Bellingcat's report. 

The one point I would make about Bellingcat's report is that it is based on the misunderstanding that it is the images themselves rather than what they show that is the evidence in this case.

Much of the report looks like an effort to prove that the Russian satellites images were made earlier than the dates the Russians say the Ukrainian BUK missile launchers were present in the locations shown in the images. This is based on comparisons of certain topographical features that appear in the images with earlier images of the same locations obtained from Google Earth.

The Russian satellite images were not however produced to show the topographical features about which Bellingcat writes so much about.  Nor were they produced as evidence to the two official inquiries or in a court case, who would doubtless want to see the raw data, which in this case would be the images in their original form.

The Russian satellite images were produced at a press conference to show the location of the Ukrainian BUK missile launchers the Ukrainians denied were there.  It is the Russian military who say the BUK missile launchers were there on the day MH17 was shot down. It is the provenance with the Russian military of the images and the claim about the date that lends them both weight.

There would be nothing surprising or sinister in the Russian military, for the purpose of a press conference, retouching images with the help of earlier images to make the images look clearer, and there is no reason to think there is anything more to it than that. 

The Almaz-Antey presentation now brings us a significant step closer to the truth.

We can now definitely say that MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile.  

As to Almaz-Antey’s claims that it was of a type no longer made in Russia and that it was launched from an area where Russian satellite imagery show a Ukrainian BUK missile launcher was present, it is open for those who disagree to show why this is wrong.  

Given Almaz-Antey’s particular expert knowledge of the BUK missile system as its manufacturer, on the question of the precise type of BUK missile that was used and the point of its launch, that looks like a hard task for anyone to do. Any challenge to Almaz-Antey’s claims on these questions would have to be of at least similar technical competence to be convincing, even if it did not have to be fully equal to it.

I note Almaz-Antey's offering help with physical tests and simulations.  I will be interested to see if anyone takes up this offer.

Since Almaz-Antey is only capable of providing expert evidence, quite properly it refuses to speculate about who was operating the launcher that launched the BUK missile, which it says was located at Zaroschshenskoe.  

It is the Russian military --- not Almaz-Antey --- that identifies this BUK missile launcher as Ukrainian.

I restate my longstanding view that it is only through interviews of all of the military personnel involved --- on both sides --- and through an examination of the relevant unit log books, that the full truth of what happened will finally be established.  

I note with interest --- on the strength of certain comments made by one of Russia's Deputy Defence Ministers --- that the Russian Defence Ministry appears to be of the same view.

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