One of the many mysteries in the Bellingcat narrative is the very little number of people who reported seeing the BUK travelling from Donetsk to Snizhne.
According Ukraine the BUK travelled at night from the Russian border to Donetsk. It was first noticed at around 09:00 am on the morning of 17 July 2014 according a post on vKontakte found by Bellingcat.
Donetsk is a city with about a little less than 1 million citizens. Probably in July 2014 less as people left the city because of the war. Many of the people have a mobile phone.
Yet there is only a single person who made a photo (or video) of the BUK parked next to a busy road. Nobody knows exactly for how long the BUK was parked there. According Bellingcat the BUK loaded on a low-loader departed around 10:45 heading east towards Zuhres. The times of departure were adjusted a couple of times by Bellingcat.
So the BUK, which was an unusual sight as this was the first BUK in separatists occupied area, was standing in a busy town on a busy road and only one person made photos of it. Actually it is still unknown if the two photos are stills from a dashcam.
Dutch reporter Gert-Jan Denekamp told me the road H21 was the major road for people to travel to Luhansk as the E50 motorway was blocked near Debaltseve. So many people including journalists past the place where the BUK was parked.
Also the motel at the roundabout was a frequently used meeting point for journalists who wanted to meet with separatists.
It is also not logical the BUK was moved in the middle of the day. The Strela-10 was moved from Donetsk to Snizhen in the night. Probably to avoid Ukraine was aware the position of this tactical weapon.
Reasons for hardly any eyewitness
The reason that so little people reported about the presence of a BUK could be fear. Well, that is the reason Aric Toler, one of two persons working for Bellingcat, believes.
Australian TV station SBS One had an interview (here the programme starting at15:00) with an anonymous eyewitness. He stated he saw the BUK in Donetsk. He wanted to be anonymous because of fear. The eyewitness saw it was a surface to air system with 4 missiles loaded on it.
The eyewitness likely stated that he saw the BUK at 09:00 in Donetsk. The presenter of the program in fact told this.
According the eyewitness the BUK drove on Ilycha Avenue and made a right turn to Shakhtostroiteley Boulevard.
The map below shows the possible route of the BUK.
This man is the only witness known who appeared on tv and saw a BUK in Donetsk. The other people stated about their sighting of a BUK (or possibly some other military vehicle) on social media. Arnold Greidanus did a lot of research on social media postings.
Are people afraid to post military movements on social media?
It certainly does not look like people were afraid to post information and video’s on military convoys in the days before July 17.
Here is an example, here another and here another. I really doubt layman like citizen are were able to judge themselves that posting images and videos of a BUK were dangerous. And postings of other military equipment were not. As the eyewitness featured by SBS One told, most citizen did not even know what kind of vehicle a BUK was.
Ofcourse it is possible that postings were deleted after the shotdown of MH17 because people then understood it was better to delete postings and videos.
Strange thing is that the videos we still have, were made from apartment buildings. So very easy to trace where the person who made the video lived.
Aric Toler of Bellingcat provided me with two links indicating people were made afraid by the separatists. This is a study of Amnesty International titled ABDUCTIONS AND TORTURE IN EASTERN UKRAINE. The other link provided is a document titled Ukraine: Rebel Forces Detain, Torture Civilians