New analysis carried out by experts working for Monterey Institute of International Studies using satellite imagery show that Russian MoD manipulated satellite imagery with the intention to show Ukraine is behind the shot down of MH17.
The conclusion of the experts adds to many other facts showing Russia lied. Despite many indications the photos are manipulated still a few people like award winning journalist Robert Parry believe the photos are genuine.
New York Times requested Russia for a comment. The Russian Defense Ministry said it would require three days to respond (starting Friday). The Ministry of Foreign Affairs referred questions to the Ministry of Defense.
The image below shows two satellite images: The one without the cloud was claimed by Russia to have been taken at July 14. There are a couple of objects visible.
The image showing a large cloud was taken at July 17. A couple of objects are gone.
Arms Control Wonk
The results of the analysis using specialized software were published at July 15 2016 at the Arms Control Wonk blog.
Arms Control Wonk is a leading blog on disarmament, arms control and nonproliferation. Founded in 2004 by Jeffrey Lewis, Arms Control Wonk has since been a home to everything that is “too wonky or obscene” for publication about nuclear weapons.
Jeffrey Lewis is Adjunct Professor and Director of East Asia Non-Proliferation Program at James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.
At July 15 2016, Lewis posted the results of analysis of satellite imagery presented by the Russian Ministry of Defense at July 21 2014. Russia claimed two photos prove that an Ukriane army BUK missile launcher was moved from a Donetsk military base and two Ukraine BUK missile launchers were photographed by a satellite near a small village called Zaroshchenske.
The left photo shows military base near Donetsk ( A-1428). Right photo shows two BUKs near Zaroshchenske.
The conclusion of the analysis is:
- The “Cloud” Slide on the left: In terms of the image purporting to show a Ukrainian Buk surface-to-air missile launcher absent from a Ukrainian military base on the day of the shoot-down, someone appears to have modified or even added the cloud cover. Others have argued that Russia has provided a false date for the image and altered the clouds to obscure terrain features that might correctly date the image. We agree that the clouds have been altered. We cannot think of another motive for adding a cloud to this satellite image.
- The “Two Buks” Slide on the right: In terms of the image purporting to show two Ukrainian Buk surface-to-air missile launchers, the launchers appear to have been modified or altered in the underlying satellite image. The changes could range from attempting to sharpen the launchers to digitally adding them. The presence of the two launchers is the central fact of the image; the signs of overt manipulation to this portion of the image renders it totally unreliable as evidence.
Previous indications for Russian lies
The results of the work done by Monterey Institute of International Studies adds to other facts that indicate Russia manipulated the satellite images.
- Google Earth images show the BUK still parked at the Donetsk base at July 17 (see photo below)
- Metabunk forum users debunked the Russian images (source)
- Dutch satellite expert Marco Langbroek also stated the photo the photograph does not show a scene compliant with the geometric situation at 8:32 UT on 17 July 2014 as seen from Resurs-P1. (source)
- Bellingcat did error level analysis on the photo. Bellingcat concluded the photo was faked
- Bellingcat contacted the Geospatial Technologies Project at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) . They concluded a significant discrepancy of azimuth deviation would indicate that either the time on the image is incorrect, the date on the image is incorrect, or both the time and date are incorrect.
Page 32 of the Bellingcat two-year-later report has the details.
- images taken at ground level of the Donetsk base indicate the BUK was not operational (source)
- people living at Zaroshchenske told various reporters they did not see a BUK near the village at July 17 (more info here)
- there is not a single eyewitness who saw a BUK missile launched or flying near Zaroshchenske. However there are many who saw a missile flying coming from the south of Snizhne. (source)
First of all, the BUK that disappeared according Moscow from the Donetsk army base in fact was not operational. Ukraine@war has a detailled post about this here.
This Google Earth image taken by a DigitalGlobe satellite on July 17, 2014 at 11:08 UTC shows there still is what appears to be a BUK at the Donetsk base. Lostarmour has a series of photos of that BUK here. Some of the photos were made after July 17, 2014.
Some disagree with results of Monterey Institute of International Studies analysis
Not everyone agrees with the results presented by Monterey Institute of International Studies. For example Dr. Neal Krawetz (@hackerfactor at Twitter) , which is a computer security specialist, forensic researcher, and founder of FotoForensics stated in a Tweet: “the report is a outright fraud”
— Dr. Neal Krawetz (@hackerfactor) July 17, 2016
I approached Krawetz by email and requested if he was willing to elaborate on his statement. The response was:
“I don’t give interviews. If I elaborate, I will blog. Right now, the conspiracy is not worth the attention.”
“Same mistakes, different software”
referring to a blog written by Krawetz in which he expresses his objection to the way Bellingcat used the ELA system of FotoForensics software.
Another person in denial mode is US journalist Robert Parry. Parry at July 17 wrote a blog titled MH-17: Two Years of Anti-Russian Propaganda
some nuclear arms control researchers at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies as definitive though there’s no reason to believe that these folks have any special expertise in applying this software whose creator says requires careful analysis
The usage of the word ‘some’ suggest Parry did not do much research on the credentials of the authors of the Arms Control Wonk blogpost.
Parry also states:
In other words, the Russians would have no clear motive to doctor satellite photos since accurate ones would have shown the presence of Ukrainian Buk missile batteries in the area. You might have thought that the Times would have considered this fact relevant in evaluating claims from some amateur analysts about whether photos were manipulated or not.
Again, the usage of the word ‘amateur’ suggest Parry did not do much research on the credentials of the authors of the Arms Control Wonk blogpost.
While on the subject of being an amateur we have to conclude that in the blogpost of Parry not a single mention is done of all the evidence indicating there was a BUK parked at the Donetsk army base and there were no BUKs near Zaroshchenske.
From an investigative reporter as Parry likes to call himself we might have thought he would do a far more balanced reporting on this case.