Two months ahead of the grim second anniversary marking the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, a new video has mysteriously appeared online showing a Russian Buk missile launcher — the same launcher that experts believe was used to shoot down the Boing 777-200 on July 17, 2014.
The Malaysia Airlines flight was en route from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, when it suddenly crashed into a field near Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, an area controlled by pro-Russian militia forces battling the Ukraine government in that country's ongoing and bloody civil war.
The crash killed all 298 passengers and crew on board Flight MH17. Western intelligence agencies immediately pinned the blame for the horrific disaster on a shootdown by a surface-to-air missile from inside the war zone.
Last October, 18 months after the Flight MH17 disaster, Dutch investigators concluded that a Russian-made Buk missile did, in fact, shoot down the plane. The investigators did not, however, name who actually fired the missile or the precise location from where it was launched.
The MH17 shootdown happened just four months after the bizarre and still unexplained disappearance of another Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200, Flight MH370.
One day after the Malaysia Airlines shoot-down, the Ukraine government released a video that appeared to show a Buk missile launcher traveling on a flatbed truck through a region in Eastern Ukraine in the direction of the Russian border.
The launcher seen in that video appeared to carry only three missiles rather than the full compliment of four, indicating that one of its missiles may have been fired.
View the Ukraine government video showing the Buk missile launcher, below.
But the new video, posted May 3 of this year on YouTube and apparently recorded by the dashboard camera of an unidentified vehicle, seems to show a missile launcher with four missiles. According to the independent investigative group Bellingcat, the launcher is moving into the suspected Buk missile launch site rather than away from that area as the Ukraine government video showed.
"There are several details visible which seem to indicate this is the same Buk TELAR that has been recorded moving towards the suspected Buk missile launch site, thus associating it with the downing of MH17," Bellingcat says.
Watch the mysterious new video, below. The white truck carrying the missile launcher appears at about the 45-second mark of the video.
Bellingcat uses publicly available sources, such as social media posts and other online information, to probe international mysteries. The group came to prominence in 2012 when it became the first to find evidence that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons in that country's civil war.
Earlier this year, Bellingcat identified the source of the missile launcher as the Russian Army's 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade, second battalion. In addition to identification markings on the truck and Buk launcher, the new video shows what Bellingcat says are two "escort vehicles" leading the convoy.
After examining the new video, Bellingcat wrote in a May 12 posting on the group's website that the missile launcher is the same seen in the Ukraine government video and that it is moving east through the Ukraine city of Makiivka.
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Read the full Bellingcat analysis of the new video by clicking on this link.
"The importance of this sighting is that it provides further insight to the actual route taken by the Buk convoy," the group wrote.
"A railway bridge... makes the direct route through Makiivka difficult due to the height of the Buk transport, so it seems the convoy diverted slightly from the main road in Makiivka to work around this problem via a southern route through Avtotransportna St. This is the same route taken by a heavy transport convoy on July 15th, where the same escort vehicles were present," Bellingcat says.
In another development last week that appears to confirm the Bellingcat findings, the United States-based private intelligence firm Straftor on Friday published a satellite image that it says shows the Buk missile launcher on its way toward the shootdown site.
"The imagery shows the air defense system, mounted atop a transloader, being transported east through the Donetsk town of Makiivka," Stratfor said on its own site. "The images were taken approximately five hours before Flight MH17 was shot down from a location near the town of Snizhne, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) away."
Stratfor added, however, that the images do not prove that the launcher seen in the satellite image and the new online video was actually used in the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, only that the Buk missile system was in the area where the tragedy took place, around the same time that the plane was shot down.
[Photo by Nicholas Garriga/Associated Press]