Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17: Russia Lied, Faked Photos To Blame Ukraine For Shootdown, Study Finds

On the two-year anniversary of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 shootdown over war-torn eastern Ukraine, a new study by an American research group shows that Russia digitally altered satellite images to point the finger at the Ukraine military for bringing down the commercial airliner in a horrifying tragedy that killed all 298 people on board the Boeing 777-200.

Also on July 17, the date marking two years to the day since the Malaysia shootdown Airlines Flight MH17 shootdown, the Dutch Safety Board, which has been investigating the disaster, released a chilling video with a detailed, animated recreation of exactly how they now believe the shootdown occurred. That video may be viewed by scrolling down on this page.

On July 17, 2014, the Malaysia Airlines plane was en route from Amsterdam, Holland, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, flying over eastern Ukraine — a region controlled by pro-Russian secessionist rebels in the bloody, ongoing Ukraine civil war — when a powerful Buk antiaircraft missile fired from the ground exploded just feet from the cockpit of the 777, causing the plane to drop from the sky, according to the Dutch Safety Board findings.

But in the initial hours and days after the shootdown, the Vladimir Putin government of Russia pumped out various theories blaming the Ukraine government for shooting down the plane.

Below is the Dutch Safety Board video showing an animated recreation, along with explanation, of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 shootdown.

Shortly after the MH17 shootdown, the Russia Defense Ministry published two purported satellite images online. Russia said the photos were evidence that Ukraine, not Russia, had deployed high-tech Buk antiaircraft missile launchers to the war-torn area on the day of the shootdown.

But according to researchers at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies in Monterey, California, those photos were digitally doctored before Russia made them public.

The researchers used special software designed to detect when photos have been digitally altered or retouched. The Middlebury Institute researchers had acquired the software to use in analyzing propaganda images from North Korea, but have now also applied its use to analysis of the Russian Malaysia Airlines MH17 shootdown images.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 Russia Photos Shootdown Russian Slides

The photo on the right, above, is said to show two Buk missile launchers in place at a location where one of them could have fired the missile that downed the Malaysia Airlines plane. Russia provided the photo to Dutch investigators to make the case that Ukraine was behind the MH17 shootdown.

The photo, however, shows “signs of manipulation that call into question its integrity,” the American researchers wrote.

“These manipulations include signs that the two Buk launchers do not match the underlying image, suggesting that they have been enhanced or added digitally from another image. Two filters show obvious signs of tampering — artifacts left by software such as Photoshop.”

The complete Middlebury Institute report on the alleged digital faking of photos by Russia can be accessed at this link.

The photo on the left, above, supposedly shows that an antiaircraft missile launcher went missing from a Ukraine military base on July 17, 2014. But that photo was also tampered with, according to the report.

Analysis using the doctoring-detection software showed “extreme alterations to the underlying image, particularly with regard to the cloud on the left-hand site of the image. This includes the possibility that the cloud was added in its entirety.”

The cloud was likely added to the image, the report’s authors speculate, to obscure the date when the photo was actually taken. But whatever the reason, “we can assess this image to have been so heavily manipulated that it lacks any credibility as evidence. These modifications involve the alteration or addition of one, and possibly both, clouds,” the report’s authors wrote.


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If indeed Russia faked evidence in the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, the Vladimir Putin government could be in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2166, which required all governments with evidence or information about the shootdown to turn it over to investigators. Russia itself voted in favor of Resolution 2166.

[Image via Dutch Safety Board]