Russian claims that Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down by a missile fired by Ukraine, not by Russian-backed separatist rebels in that country, were based on digitally altered photographic evidence, a new analysis by the independent group Bellingcat claims.
Bellingcat is an online group that performs what it describes as forensic photo analysis relating to various world events.
The site has carried out previous studies which it says show Russia’s responsibility for shooting down the civilian airliner on July 17 of last year, killing all 298 passengers and crew as the plane flew over war-torn eastern Ukraine on its way from Amsterdam, Holland, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Almost a year after the horrific tragedy, Dutch crash investigators have still not issued their final report on what happened to the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200, or assigned blame for the shootdown. In fact, the investigators have not yet publicly said that they believe the plane was actually shot down, saying only that “high energy objects” struck Flight MH17, causing the airliner to crash.
However, in March, the investigators issued a video in the Russian language, asking members of the public for information about a Buk missile launcher that was photographed rolling through streets somewhere in eastern Ukraine in the day of the shootdown.
But Russia has consistently maintained that Ukraine troops are the guilty parties in the shootdown. In a press conference just days after the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash, the Russian Ministry of Defense displayed satellite images which is said showed Buk missile launchers in the control of the Ukraine government.
The Russian authorities said that the launchers were positioned in an area where a missile aimed at Flight MH17 would have originated. But the Bellingcat analysis released Sunday claims that those satellite images were doctored.
“Satellite images presented by the Russian Ministry of Defence claiming to shown Ukrainian Buks linked to the downing of MH17 on July 14th and 17th are in fact older images from June 2014,” the site, founded by Eliot Higgins, wrote.
“Error level analysis of the images also reveal the images have been edited. This includes a Buk missile launcher that was removed to make it appear the Buk missile launcher was active on July 17th, and imagery where Buk missile launchers were added to make it appear they were within attack range of Flight MH17,” the site said.
Russian sources have also made the claim that the Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down not by a surface-to-air missile at all, but by an air-to-air missile fired by a Ukraine government fighter plane.
“Radar imagery was described as showing an aircraft close to Flight MH17 after it was shot down,” the new report said, addressing the claim that a Ukraine government plane shot down the Malaysia Airlines 777. “Experts interviewed by various media organizations have stated this is almost certainly debris from Flight MH17 as it broke up over Eastern Ukraine.”
The complete Bellingcat report alleging faked evidence in the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 can be downloaded in PDF format at this link.
[Image: Rob Stothard/Getty Images]