MH-17 flight downed 3 years ago. How much do we know now?



Article by: Vitalii Rybak and Viktoriia Chernova

On 17 July 2014 —  three years ago — Malaysian airlines flight MH-17 was downed over the war-torn Donbas. For many countries, this tragedy was the first serious repercussion of the war raging in Ukraine. Those responsible for the deaths of 298 passengers and crew members were still not found, even though many sides of the investigation suspect connections to Russia.

German Correct!v investigation agency was one of the first to study this tragedy in details. According to Correct!iv’s investigation, flight MH-17 was approaching Russian airspace and was shot down around 40 kilometers from the Russia-Ukraine border. The study confirmed that MH-17 was shot down by a missile, and this missile was fired from the ground, not from Ukrainian fighter jet, as Russia claimed at the moment.

The online investigators from Bellingcat have made some of the most valuable inputs into the investigation of this tragedy. Their newest report came out on 17 July 2017, the third anniversary of the downing. In this piece, the investigators summed up all their recent findings.

“For six hours before the downing of MH-17, Ukrainians went online to discuss a Buk missile launcher slowly creeping through eastern Ukraine. […] It would eventually reach the location where the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) determined a missile launch occurred on July 17, 2014,” the report reads. “On the next morning after the downing, Buk reached Luhansk. It traveled a roundabout route through through Krasniy Luch, to Debaltseve, and finally to Luhansk, where it was filmed passing along Pavlivska-Nechuya Levytskoho St. The Buk was taken across the Ukraine-Russia border in the early hours of July 18,” it adds.

Moreover, Bellingcat’s investigators managed to identify a number of features and details of the Buk missile launcher that downed MH-17. “A particular Buk-M1 TELAR stood out, belonging to Russia’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade. This Buk left from Kursk, Russia on June 23 and traveled towards the Russia-Ukraine border, with a convoy last seen in Millerovo, Russia on June 25. This Buk, which was first dubbed “Buk 3×2” due to an obscured digit on the side of the chassis, has many similarities with the one seen in Ukraine on July 17,” the report reads. All those suspected of this terrorist act are listed here.

Design by Ganna Naronina. From the article “One year later, what do we know about the MH17 tragedy?”

Last year’s report of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) supports Bellingcat’s conclusion about the Russian link. Wilbert Paulissen, the head of the Dutch National Detective Force, stressed on 28 September 2016 “there was conclusive evidence that a missile from the Russian-made Buk 9M38 missile system downed the passenger flight on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 people on board.” However, the JIT did not name the suspects yet the way Bellingcat did. The investigation is still going on, as Russia continues to deny its involvement despite all the evidence.

Read also: One year later, what do we know about the MH17 tragedy?

So far there are no valid alternative theories, as Russia’s attempt to blame Ukrainian army got blown by Bellingcat.

It is still not clear why Ukraine did not close its airspace over the Donbas in July 2017 completely. Tjibbe Joustra, the chairman of the Dutch Safety Board, underlined in 2015 there was sufficient reason to close the airspace as a precaution, but “the Ukrainian authorities failed to do so.” Ukraine’s foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin replied then that the Ukrainian authorities had been unaware that antiaircraft weapons were being used in the area. Moreover, Gennadiy Zubko, Ukraine’s deputy PM, stressed that Ukraine “had been gradually closing all sky corridors of an altitude of 9,750 metres and less.” However, that was not enough, as MH-17 was shot down at at a cruising altitude of 10,100 metres. Clearly, no one thought that civil plains were at risk.

There were also judicial matters to solve. On 5 July 2017, Bert Koenders, Dutch foreign minister, emphasized that the JIT countries have now decided that the suspects should be prosecuted in the Netherlands, and this process “will be rooted in ongoing international cooperation and support.” This is important, given that the victims came from 17 different countries on five continents, Koenders says. The US welcomed this decision.


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

There is another problem. It is highly unlikely that Russia will recognize any decision of the trial. In 2015, it did its best to block the very creation of the tribunal. In this case, the trial will be held even with the physical absence of the suspects.

Meanwhile, families of the MH-17 continue to demand justice. They have held a protest near the Russian Embassy in the Hague to mark the three-year anniversary of the catastrophe, Hromadske reports. According to news piece by NOS, a memorial park bench in front of the embassy building was installed.

In Ukraine, MH-17 catastrophe is still a big deal. Many Ukrainian media mentioned the anniversary and gave updates on the state of the investigation. Ukrainian officials also remembered to honor the victims. For instance, President Poroshenko expressed his hope for the successful trial for those who planned and executed this terrorist act. Pavlo Klimkin, Ukraine’s foreign minister, noted that the investigation is already “halfway there.” “We want to know who pushed the button, who gave the order and what was the ultimate chain of command,” he claimed.

So will the investigation be able to find those responsible for the downing of MH-17 plane? Is anyone in Russia’s government connected to this crime? We might receive the answers in early 2018, as Liow Tiong Lai, Malaysia’s transport minister, revealed.

Prepared by Vitalii Rybak and Viktoriia Chernova for UkraineWorld group (

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  1. Avatar RedSquareMaidan says:

    If Russia doesn’t respect the outcome of the trial, nobody should respect Russia.

    1. Avatar Robert says:

      Red, I’m not sure there’s many people at all who’ve respected Russia for several years now…

      1. Avatar Dirk Smith says:

        Unfortunately the West has; namely the USA. Had McCain or Romney been elected, things would be different right now.

  2. Avatar Robert says:

    The operative and more important question is: Exactly who in Russia’s government is connected to this crime and in what capacity?, not “Is anyone in Russia’s government connected to this crime?” as the author queries.

  3. Avatar veth says:


    Friday, 21 July 2017

    Funds, arms for Donbas invasion “taken from annexed Crimea” – Strelkov aka Girkin Former leader of “DPR” terrorists Igor Strelkov during Thursday’s televised debates with the Russian opposition’s Aleksey Navalny said he had organized the invasion of the Ukrainian Donbas in 2014 using money from the Russian-occupied Crimea. Politics 23:10, 20 July 2017 290 READ LATER Screenshot Answering one of the questions from the audience, Strelkov said: “I can tell you that I have taken the weapons in Crimea. That’s where I also got a little money – a rather small amount. As for the remaining questions, I, as an officer… cannot and will not answer.” The ex-militant leader also refused to name specific sources of funding. Read also Man behind launching hostilities in Donbas reveals current structure of “DPR”/”LPR” armies As UNIAN reported earlier, former “DPR” warlord “DNR” Igor Strelkov aka Girkin called out Russian opposition’s Aleksey Navalny to take part in public political debates.

    Read more on UNIAN:

  4. Avatar zorbatheturk says:

    The Na zi republic of RuZZia doesn’t do justice. Otherwise Putin would be facing a firing squad tomorrow.

  5. Avatar Vol Ya says:

    Who should be believed? Actual forensic evidence coming from
    the Joint Investigation Team or the absurd lies coming from Russia.

    All the lies from Russia won’t change the truth. Russian
    rebels shot down that Malaysia airliner.