Why did Russia close its airspace near Donbas one day before flight MH17 was downed?

Snapshot of animation released by the Dutch Safety Board in October 2015 as it released its report into the tragedy which definitively showed a Russian-made missile was responsible for the crash 


17 hours and 20 minutes before flight MH17 was shot down above Donbas, Russia suddenly issued restrictions essentially banning civilian air traffic in regions adjacent to eastern Ukraine. Despite this restriction, the air traffic controller allowed the crew of MH17 to continue their flight as if nothing had happened. So far, Russia has offered no explanation for this, Russian Forbes writes.

When on 13 October 2015 the Dutch Safety Board released its report into the crash of flight MH17, which was downed on 17 July 2014 above the skies of eastern Ukraine where Russian-backed separatists were waging a war against the Ukrainian government, it implicitly accused Ukraine of being one of the culprits of the shot down airplane because of not closing its airspace. The reasoning goes like this: had Ukraine predicted that a civilian aircraft would be fired upon at the cruising altitude of the MH17 and prohibited flights above Donbas, no airplane would be shot down, and 298 people wouldn’t die.

This argument was eagerly picked up by Russian officials, who were quick to present Ukraine not closing its airspace as “of one of the main reasons for the tragedy,” as Russia’s deputy Foreign Minister Aleksei Meshkov worded it in an official memo of the Russian Foreign Ministry to Regina Jones-Bos, the Dutch ambassador to Russia, on 3 October 2016. This was a convenient talking point for Russia; as Bellingcat’s open source report on the third year anniversary of the MH17 tragedy shows, the only realistic culprit of the MH17 downing is Russia’s 53d Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade, who brought a Buk into Ukraine on the day MH17 was shot down with a missile produced in Russia, and since the date of the tragedy, Russia had engaged in a campaign to conceal that fact.

Euromaidan Press has previously addressed this argument, offering the following reasons for why Ukraine can’t be considered guilty of not closing its airspace on 17 July 2014:

  1. Before 17 July, there were no indications that airplanes were endangered above 10,000, as there was no proof that Buks had been used – the Ukrainian military airplanes shot down before 17 July 2014 were flying under the cruising altitude of MH17;
  2. Ukraine had only three days to assess the situation after its military airplanes were shot down and decide whether civilian aircraft are under risk;
  3. Russia’s previous targets were not civilian aircraft but Ukrainian military planes, which could be shot down with more primitive systems than the likes of a Buk. Ukraine could not have predicted that a Buk would be brought into its territory to shoot down civilian aircraft.
  4. Practically no country closes its airspace, even if there is war. If there is no obvious threat to passenger flights, the airspace remains open. International authorities are also very reluctant to close airspaces.

Design: Ganna Naronina

Read more: Ukraine had no reason to close its airspace above 10 000 m before MH17 disaster | Infographic

Three years after the tragedy, when it’s difficult to deny that Russia is the culprit, Russia’s Forbes has analyzed overlooked aspects of this story and is asking Russian officials questions which yet have no answer.

In an article published on 16 July 2017, Forbes author Vadim Lukashevich draws attention to page 180 the DSB 2015 report which states that on the night of 16-17 July 2017, Russia suddenly imposed airspace restrictions on Russian airspace up to 16,000 m for flights adjacent to Ukraine, which is comparable to the maximum height of the Buk’s firing altitude (18 km). After 17 hours and 20 minutes, a Buk shot down the Malaysian Boeing with passengers on Ukrainian territory close to Russia.

The NOTAM UUUUV6158/14 published by Rostov’s Flight Information Region stated that it applies from the ground up to FL530, much higher than the existing Ukrainian restriction of FL320.

Prior to that date, Russia had not imposed any restrictions, while Ukraine had gradually closed up its airspace: first, restrictions were issued for flights below 1500 m, then (from 6 to 30 June 2014), for flights bel0w FL260 (7,925 m). On 14 July 2014, Ukraine limits the minimum flight altitude for civilian passenger aircraft above the conflict zone in Donbas to FL320 (9,754 m).

The Russian side indicated that the restrictions imposed on 16 July were necessary to ensure “international flight safety,” and the reason was “combat actions on the territory of Ukraine near the state border with the Russian Federation and the acts of firing from the territory of Ukraine towards the territory of the Russian Federation.”

It’s unclear why Russia decided to impose such limitations specifically on 16 July, despite combat actions going on in Donbas for several months.


Lukashevich wrote:

“So, until this moment, Ukrainian Buks in the Anti-terrorist operation zone didn’t concern our [Russian – ed] air traffic control service, but starting from 00:00 on 17 July they suddenly became deadly. For several months, they [the Buks – ed] just stood there in the Anti-terrorist operation zone, but suddenly in the night of 17 July they (in Russia’s opinion) got ready to shoot in the direction of Russian airspace. And just as soon as Russia prepared for this (beforehand!), some Buk shoots down a passenger airliner right away. Do you believe in such striking coincidences?!”

When the Dutch Safety Board asked the Russian side about the reason for imposing these restrictions in the course of the investigation, Rosaviatsia, Russia’s federal agency for air transport, answered that the measures were taken to “create agreement with the adjoining Ukrainian airspace.”

However, no agreement was created: Ukraine closed its airspace up to 9,454 m (FL320), and Russia closed it to a higher altitude, up to 16,150 m (FL530), which essentially was a full ban on civil aviation.

The Dutch experts did not receive a clarification from the Russian side on this apparent “conflict of altitudes,” or on Russia’s reasons to restrict civilian flights at a higher altitude than in Ukraine.

Moreover, Forbes writes, MH17’s flight route intersected the Rostov ATC Control Zone, which received instructions to restrict flights up to FL530 starting from midnight. Therefore, the Rostov air traffic controller knew that when MH17 would cross into Russian airspace flying at its FL330, it would enter a zone forbidden for civilian aviation flights, but was silent. Moreover, he said nothing to over 150 other civilian airliners which entered Russian airspace starting from midnight of 17 July 2014 until the moment when Ukraine closed down its airspace.

Vadim Lukashevich puts the following questions before Rosaviatsiya and its deputy director Oleg Storchevoy:

  • why did the Rostov Flight Information Region restrict flight altitudes in Russian airspace near the Ukrainian border specifically on 17 July 2014, the day MH17 was shot down?
  • why is the altitude of this restriction out of the reach for all existing types of civilian aircraft but is practically the same as the maximum shooting altitude of the Buk anti-aircraft missile system?
  • why did the air traffic controller, having received on 16 July the NOTAM UUUUV6158/14 which restricted civilian flights up to 15,150 m starting from 00:00 of 17 July 2017, choose to ignore it and continued to service the airspace adjacent to Ukraine as if there were no restrictions issued at all? Why did some 150 civilian airplanes manage on 17 July 2014 to fly through the restricted Russian airspace within the area of responsibility of the Rostov air traffic controller?
  • why was the Rostov air traffic controller, who was informed about the restrictions imposed on civil aviation flights below FL530, preparing to escort flight MH17 as it was approaching the Ukrainian-Russian border, instead of informing the crew (directly, or through Ukrainian controllers) that they are approaching a zone of closed airspace?
  • why did no Russian official, including Rosaviatsiya, nowhere and at no time mention Russia’s incredible insight when speaking about Ukraine’s failure to close its airspace, i.e. “Why didn’t Ukraine close its airspace above the armed conflict zone like Russia did?”
The Joint Investigation Team researching the MH17 catastrophe concluded that the airliner was shot down by a rocket issued from a Buk antiaircraft missile system which came from Russian territory.

Open source investigations by Bellingcat and other teams identify the Buk as being brought into Ukraine by the 53d Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade from Russia.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense has been involved in disseminating faked satellite images and other information attempting to prove that MH17 was shot down by a Buk on territory controlled by Ukraine.

Russia announced that the results of Bellingcat’s investigations are not trustworthy.

Malaysia hopes that the suspects of causing the MH17 catastrophe will be known until the end of 2017.

Read also:



Source: forbes.ru

Dear readers! Since you’ ve made it to this point, we have a favor to ask. Russia’s hybrid war against Ukraine is ongoing, but major news agencies have gone away, which is why it's extra important to provide news about Ukraine in English. We are a small independent journalist team on a shoestring budget, have no political or state affiliation, and depend on our readers to keep going (using the chanсe - a big thank you to our generous supporters, we couldn't make it without you.)  If you like what you see, please help keep us online with a donation

Tags: , ,


  1. Avatar focusser1 says:

    A cynical person would say that Russia knew one of their Buks would be shooting at a plane the following day. Knowing the drunken rabble that would be using the Buk, they took no chances, just in case it hit a Russian plane.

    1. Avatar veth says:


      1. Avatar focusser1 says:

        That’s how I saw it. They might not have been targetting MH17, I believe MH17 was unlucky, it could have been any numbers of planes that flew over Ukraine that day.

        1. Avatar Styx says:

          You never saw anything at all, apart from the “drunken rabble” of your own making, pathologically dishonest crook.

          All non circumstantial evidence points out in the direction of Ukrainian Airforce shooting down MH17.

          1. Avatar focusser1 says:

            Only pathological crook is Putin, he is also a pathological liar and murderer too, and he will have his day in front of the Hague like the rest of the war criminals.

          2. Avatar Styx says:

            Only pathological crook is focusser1, he is also a pathological liar and murderer too, and he will have his day in front of the Hague like the rest of the war criminals.

          3. Avatar focusser1 says:

            Go boil your head fool. You Russians should be wiped off the face of the earth, you are like cancer spreading death everywhere.

          4. Avatar Styx says:

            “Go boil your head fool. You Russians should be wiped off the face of the earth, you are like cancer spreading death everywhere.”

            Your head wouldn’t benefit from boiling since you don’t have one, mentally deranged “hero”.

            And you will be “wiped off the face of the earth” since “you are like cancer spreading death everywhere.”

            It really is that simple.

          5. Avatar Dale Davies says:

            Should have thermobaric enema in the Duma!

          6. Avatar Dale Davies says:

            Ewe are delusional! Quit drinking Krokidil.

      2. Avatar Simba Kijani says:

        Possibly. Consider the deterioration in diplomatic relations between the Netherlands and Moscow in the prelude to the downing of MH17:

        A senior Dutch diplomat has been assaulted by unidentified assailants at his home in Moscow days after police in the Netherlands arrested his Russian counterpart.

        Two men barged into the home of Onno Elderenbosch, the Dutch deputy head of mission in Russia, and beat him, tied him up with tape and drew a heart pierced with an arrow on his mirror in pink lipstick and beneath it the letters LGBT, the acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.


    2. Avatar Oknemfrod says:

      Consider me cynical – I’m fine with that – but the only logical explanation is: The Russians had known full well that a Buk hauled into Ukraine from Russia would be firing the next day (at what target exactly is a different question) and not at all by “drunken rabble” but by their own crew and, given the proximity of their own border, took precautions to make sure that a stray Buk missile wouldn’t hit something in the sky above Russia. Anything shot down in the sky above Ukraine was fine with them – in fact, desirable – which is why they had never asked Ukraine to follow suit and elevate their no-fly zone to the level where they had it established for themselves.

      1. Avatar Styx says:

        The shabbiest example of the most primitive speculation imaginable with no basis in reality whatsoever.

        1. Avatar Quartermaster says:

          Too bad for you, and Putin, that it isn’t speculation. It fits the facts of the situation.

          1. Avatar Styx says:

            It is too bad for you.
            No facts, just most primitive speculation, I am afraid ..

          2. Avatar Quartermaster says:

            Nah. Much too bad for you. The term “speculation” does not mean what you think it means.

          3. Avatar Styx says:

            Haha – your head is missing, you have nothing to think with.

        2. Avatar Dale Davies says:

          Ewe are wrong, as usual!

      2. Avatar Simba Kijani says:

        Excellently surmised!

        1. Avatar Oknemfrod says:

          Thank you.

          1. Avatar Styx says:

            Simba is a slimy, shaky nonagenarian paid by poroshenko, exactly like yourself.

            I blocked him quite a while ago.

          2. Avatar Simba Kijani says:

            Hey Pryxski Boy – If you blocked me then how do you know Oknemfrod responded to my comment?

  2. Avatar Screwdriver says:

    “Why did Russia close its airspace near Donbass one day before flight MH17 was downed?” Looks like Russia did not want to risk commercial aviation in the area of the escalated conflict, too bad Kiev regime did not do the same, because of the greed.
    Kiev Nazi regime is soaked in blood of thousands innocent victims.

    1. Avatar Oknemfrod says:

      The MH17 was shot down by a Russian regular military crew, firing a Russian Buk, currently in Russian military service, brought over from Russia to Ukraine by Russian regular military personnel. Everything else is nothing but fluff and asinine insinuation. Period, end of story.

      1. Avatar Styx says:

        MH17 was shot down by an air to air missile launched from a Ukrainian airforce plane and armed with a Ukrainian Buk warhead manufactured in Ukraine. No evidence exists that a ground to air missile of any kind was launched in the area at the time. Russian military provided all the evidence available to the Dutch investigation committee.

        “The Russian Investigation Committee has been cooperating with international criminal investigators on this case since November 2014 and has already replied to a number of inquiries of the National Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Netherlands on legal assistance. Dutch investigators have received considerable volumes of the information requested as well as other facts”.


        1. Avatar focusser1 says:

          You must stop reading RT, it is scrambling your brain. Russia committed mass murder, and your guy Putin is guilty as sin.

          1. Avatar Styx says:

            Yes, you are a mass murderer and a stone cold criminal of the most obvious kind amongst many other things.

            You must start preparing yourself for no less than a life in jail.

          2. Avatar Turtler says:

            You can’t scramble the nonexistent.

          3. Avatar focusser1 says:

            That’s true. :))

          4. Avatar Styx says:

            No, it is not.

          5. Avatar Oknemfrod says:

            You’ve snatched it off the tip of my tongue ;).

          6. Avatar Styx says:

            You lost your tongue some time ago.
            Your b. side does the talking.

        2. Avatar Quartermaster says:

          The evidence tells a much different story than your clownish attempts. Claiming a Buk warhead was fitted to an air to air missile is simply hilarious.

          The damage patterns on the air skin of MH17 was made by a version of the Buk that was not in the Ukrainian inventory, but only the Russian inventory.

          You can try to help Putler all you like, but the evidence is utterly damning for Putin and the Russian killers you love so much.

          1. Avatar Styx says:

            You are indeed hilarious.

            Do carry on.

          2. Avatar Quartermaster says:

            No need for me to carry on. Your mindless raving is sufficient entertainment for the entire world.

          3. Avatar Styx says:

            Do carry on your mindless ravings, Monsignor Hilarious.

          4. Avatar Quartermaster says:

            My world is reality. Something you have little attachment to.

          5. Avatar Styx says:

            Dream on – your “world” is inside of your b. side.

            That is where your head reside 🙂 🙂

        3. Avatar Brent says:

          3 for 3!!! You’re dumber and more gullible than I thought was possible “Ian”!!! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/501b7bbd0bb05d72441f5c1aa496f8e70b0fa4120454896fa756e9a1cf7f79b2.jpg

    2. Avatar veth says:

      The Russain soldiers came in themselves, with GRAD, AND BUK-systems

      1. Avatar Styx says:

        All in your in your strangely missing head they did ..

    3. Avatar veth says:

      They knew the BUK from Russia had arrived!

    4. Avatar Brent says:

      yes, especially when Russia knew it was sending a BUK missile system into Ukraine that had the capability of hitting air traffic at 30,000+ feet….prior to that, your Russo Nazzi terrorist buddies were only using missiles with the capability of 10,000 feet at the most….OOOPS……..

      Maybe you’d better off and more credible telling us about how quickly your technique can clean a toilet….

      1. Avatar Screwdriver says:

        Not true. It was reported before about the Buk system, by Ukrainian sources when Ukrainian AN-26 military plane was shot down . There is a video also where you can hear Donbass locals cheering that event.

  3. Avatar zorbatheturk says:


  4. Avatar Dirk Smith says:

    Nuke Muscovy.

    1. Avatar Styx says:

      “Nuke Muscovy.”

      You can’t help dreaming ..

      1. Avatar Brent says:

        That would be a waste of a perfectly good nuke…it would probably clean up the Muscovy sh*thole too….

  5. Avatar Tony says:

    Russia vetoed a UN tribunal into MH17. The JIT investigation prooved via multiple lines of evidence that the Buk that shot it down was trucked in from russia and trucked back there. The su-27 that Russian conspiracy theories blame is not technically capable of what they claim(according to the Russian chief designer of su-27).
    Yet I still see paid rus trolls trying to muddy the waters, Russia truly is an unapologetic terrorist state.

  6. Avatar Styx says:

    Dutch journalists question official MH17 after collecting evidence at the MH17 crash site in eastern Ukraine


    The journalists had brought back pieces of the plane because they wanted to show the public that there is still plenty of evidence at the site that investigators never bothered to collect or consider in their research, though that apparently hasn’t stopped them from reaching conclusions with incomplete data.

    1. Avatar Brent says:

      2 for 2 in demonstrating how much of a stooge you are!!!

      Even funnier is quoting “The Russophile”…..in the west it is known as “Propaganda for Real Gullible Dummies…..

      Here’s your Russian evidence. Your beloved Russians were too stupid to even photoshop the right planes for their hilariously flawed lies and propanda….. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c7a9c19301a75eef002c49edc4c841be56777fdfd978bb6b6b7c1f05195f90b3.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/af834c234eb37f2dc111af1ed3494ceb845460db8077ea1e14bdefacaf3da64a.jpg

    2. Avatar ELSEVAR says:

      Nice catch, Ian. Thanks for sharing that article. The original webpage is here …

      Interesting reading. Nowadays, black flag ops don’t even need to have a minimum amount of believability. Like with the “white helmet” al-Nusra fakers. Just set it up and the tame press outlets will do the rest. Lots of repetition until enough people believe it, and then a myth becomes virtual reality.

      1. Avatar Styx says:

        Thank you very much for the link to the original article, ELSEVAR.

        The interesting thing is that only mentally deranged items like brentover and dorfmenko believe the nonsense US and Canada based “heroes” promulgate. But that doesn’t seem to slow them down ..

        1. Avatar ELSEVAR says:

          My pleasure, Ian. A word to the wise … you are a smart guy with a lot of heart. Don’t let the schmucks drag you down to their level. Definitely don’t get into slanging matches where you are just exchanging insults. I think you are better than that.

          You might also spend a little less time here at what looks like an echo-chamber Ukrainian site stuffed with spiteful trolls. There are other sites, and other topics that you can also have fun in.

          Hang tough, buddy. E.

          1. Avatar Styx says:

            Thank you with all my heart, ELSEVAR.

            I will try my best even harder 🙂

          2. Avatar ELSEVAR says:

            It’s okay to relax every now and then, too, Ian. Lol, take some time to smell the roses.

          3. Avatar Styx says:

            I walk around Princess Grace Rose Garden in Monaco practically every day and I have a few patio roses in my garden ..

          4. Avatar ELSEVAR says:

            That is most excellent! I haven’t been to Monaco, but I have been to the magnificent Butchart Gardens in Victoria Island, BC, in Canada. Beautiful, and a good garden soothes the soul.

            Good night, Ian. Enjoy those roses. E.

          5. Avatar Styx says:

            I should definitely visit Butchart Gardens in Victoria Island one day.

            Goodnight, ELSEVAR. I will try my best ..

  7. Avatar Styx says:

    A resounding statement is made: Ukraine can not prove the presence of Russian troops in the Donbass.

    Legally, Ukraine, over three years of the war, has been unable to prove the presence of the Russian army in the Donbass.*

    Such a loud statement came in an interview with Apostrophe from Georgy Tuka, Deputy Minister for Temporary Occupied Territories and internally displaced persons.

    It means that, since there are no Russian authorities in the territories of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, that are not controlled by Ukraine, it is legally impossible to talk about occupation.

    “We can not yet, despite all the efforts, legally prove the presence in the Donbass of the regular Russian army,” Tuka said, noting that the recent decision of the court in The Hague affirmed it.

    “We can stitch a hundred embroideries a day on ourselves, but this is not the solution of the question, it’s absolutely purely emotional stuff, that can be allowed only by the deputies working for their own electorate, deceiving and manipulating them,” the deputy minister added, stressing that there are international terms and concepts that Ukraine must operate on to establish in the courts the facts of Russia’s invasion of Ukrainian territory.

    1. Avatar Brent says:

      Here’s another resounding statement for you “Styx for brains Ian”…


      Thank you once FOR ONCE AGAIN demonstrating you have the mental capacity of a piece of gerbil sh*t…..

  8. Avatar Nowhere Girl says:

    I considered it absolutely most likely that while it were the Russian “separatists” who shot down the plane, it was just a tragic accident – anyway, the militants seemed genuinely shocked when they realized that it was a civilian airplane. But now, with all these facts, it seems more and more likely that it was deliberate. “Separatists” may have been used as tools, as puppets, but it seems dangerously probable that someone in Russia had planned such an incident beforehand.