Very detailled study on Ukraine Army positions near Zaroshchens’ke

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A detailled study investigates the feasibility of the Russian Ministry of Defense’s allegation that BUK-M1 missile launchers were deployed by the Ukrainian Armed Forces to Zaroshchens’ke village near Shakhtersk in Ukraine’s Donetsk Oblast within firing range of the flightpath of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.

The path of Ukraine’s BUK-M1 units is traced from their leaving their bases up through their physicial disposition in mid-July of 2014. By examining on-line military operational reports of the Donbass Conflict from  July and August of 2014 from the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the Self-Defense Militia of the self-proclaimed Donetsk National Republic regarding the military situation between Ilovaisk and Saur Mogila, as well as social media posts by local residents, a coherent picture is uncovered which places this region in the control of the Ukrainian military from July 15 up to August, 21, 2014.

Using this data, on-line satellite imagery of the region of the BUK-M1 site reported by the Russian Ministry of Defense near Zaroshchens’ke is examined, and military features seen in the imagery are interpreted in light of the military
reports.  Eyewitness interviews and social media posts are reviewed describing a rocket launch from near Shakhtersk.  The paper concludes the deployment shown by Russian satellite imagery was militarily feasible because Ukraine controlled and had access to the territory in question, Ukrainian BUK vehicles were in the area, and local residents may have witnessed a launch.  This confirms the government of Ukraine is a potential culprit in the shootdown of the civilian airliner MH17.

About author Andrew

Background: American, Civil Engineer, work for American engineering company.

Motivation: To see justice done for victims of the MH17 air disaster.  Long time interest in Ukraine developed through contacts with the immigrant Ukrainian Catholic community in the United States.  As an American, sympathetic to anyone struggling for national self-determination and a life and government free from corruption.

Russian Language Translation Assistance: Sergey Mastepanov. All errors in Russian translation found by the reader are the fault of the primary author.

Introduction

As the MH17 tragedy unfolded on July 17, 2014, a narrative was quickly distributed out of Washington, DC and Kiev, Ukraine via the United States Embassy in Kiev and the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).  This narrative stated that the Boeing 777 airliner had been shot down with a powerful surface-to-air missile (SAM) fired from a BUK-M1 air defense vehicle by members of the Russian military and a rebel insurgent group operating under the name of the Самооборона Oполчение Донецкая Народов Республики – The Self-Defense Militia of the Donetsk National Republic (they will be referred to simply as
the Militia in this paper) within territory under their military control.  The military forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk National Republic (DNR) and Lugansk National Republic (LNR) were then undertaking a joint major armed rebellion within the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts of Ukraine (Donbass) against the new central state authorities of Ukraine, who had invaded these Oblasts in April using military units from central and western Ukraine.  It was soon further alleged that the SAM was launched from the region of the city of Snizhne in the east of Donetsk Oblast from a BUK-M1 vehicle the Militia had obtained from Russia and thus presumably either officially from the Russian State and its Armed Forces or at least with their tacit approval using a captured vehicle (such as from Crimea or perhaps captured during the South Ossetian/Georgian War of 2008).

The outline and evidence of this joint Militia/Russian shootdown scenario has been extensively investigated, discussed and dissected over the past year by a variety of interested parties in the Western Press, on the Internet, and through official government statements.  This paper will not address this scenario further.  Instead, this paper investigates evidence for a scenario developed by the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and elements of the Russian media and military-industrial complex.

Continue reading the complete study here. 

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48 Comments on Very detailled study on Ukraine Army positions near Zaroshchens’ke

  1. Good collection of material!

    (still I’m sure Z is not possible as launch site, vs MH17 damage, but it is good to know where UA+DNR forces were.
    +To me it would seem insane to have BUK anywhere near front line, except for surrounded troops (DNR area) who have no other option.)

    observation:
    “Figure 28 – Ukrainian Armed Forces BUK-M1 TELAR 321 northwest of Slavyansk on July 4, 2014.”
    Did not notice before, that unit is damaged. I wonder if that is photo of a “relocation work” of spare part TELARs?

    • > To me it would seem insane to have BUK anywhere near front line

      If Ukraine shot the plane as a provocation then the logic should be reversed:
      1) It’s best to shoot from as close a position to the rebels as possible, for the shot to be seen to originate from the rebel controlled area.
      2) The Buks would only be at the position very briefly – shoot and run.

      Ukraine’s motivation for the false flag provocation was to get UN to label the rebels as a terrorist organisation. Ukraine tried hard to achieve that, if you’ve been following the news.

      > except for surrounded troops (DNR area) who have no other option.)

      You grossly underestimate the size of DNR area, low S/N guy.

      Andrew, thanks for your big work!

      • Russian story missing an important bit: Where is the launch site?
        Launch site in Snizhne has been easily identified. I’m quite sure JIT has soil samples already ;).

        • The purpose of the study was not to find a launch site. The purpose was to show Ukraine troops controled an area within reach for a BUK missile to hit MH17.

          Let us conclude there is no irrefutable evidence a launch site could be south of Snizhne. The fact that the JIT took soil samples south of Snizhne only in June 2015 does not add to the confidence this is a highly likely launch site

          Let us conclude as well the social media sources are the only sources the public opinion is based on.

          http://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2015/06/15/technisch-onderzoek-mh17-in-oost-oekraine-gestart-nog-veel-bewijs-te-halen

          • Hector Reban // March 4, 2016 at 8:36 am //

            According to Jeroen Akkermans the DSB claimed that for a more pricise determination of the launch spot more forensic research would be necessary.

            https://twitter.com/JeroenAkkermans/status/703097920497672194

            From this I conclude the soil samples from the Bellingcat/Ukraine@war designated field haven’t led to results from which can be dervied a BUK was launched there.

            In other words, after debunking of the two-faced plume now this field can be absolved too.

          • You are jumping to conclusions based on your own believes, not on logic.
            The JIT will not release any information on the results of soil samples before the courtcase starts.
            The soil sample collection took place in June 2015 which is remarkable late. However we do not know if soil samples were taken before that date. I doubt it but there is a massive amount of propaganda and false/incomplete information.

            So far we have quite a few pieces of a puzzle. However, the pieces are partly upside down. We do not know the complete picture. We just have to wait and document what we know.

          • Hector Reban // March 4, 2016 at 3:26 pm //

            Admin, this *is* logic.

            ¨More forensic research necessary to define an exact launch spot¨ means there apparently is no definitive result yet.

            And when there is no definitive result, it means the tests on the alleged spot couldn´t come up with a clear chemical fingerprint a BUK was fired there.

            When we should read this otherwise, please elaborate. Also I can make an honest mistake. Filling in my ¨believes¨ from your own biased views about these, should be set aside.

            This has nothing to do with issuing these results in public or not.

        • Roman Shein:

          “Russian story missing an important bit: Where is the launch site?”

          If the launch site must be a burnt field, several were identified in the paper. This does not mean I agree that BUK’s set field’s on fire when they are launched. There is zero evidence for that.

          Examples:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2Ea97DTwA8

          And:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQb9tHZFAu8

          “Launch site in Snizhne has been easily identified. I’m quite sure JIT has soil samples already”

          A burnt field south of Snizhne was identified. Why this should be assumed to be a launch site is not clear. It is supposedly based on the geolocation of a plume of smoke photographed several minutes after launch on a day with 5 m/s winds. If it really was a launch plume, it would have moved significantly in the 4 to 6 minutes before it was photographed. In five minutes it would drift 1.5 km downwind, which run backwards would place the launch vehicle in Pervomaiskyi village.

    • soltilspassi:

      TELAR 321 was a perfectly functional TELAR which moved off base under its own power in March. The damage to its handrails in July was cause by low clearances during movement near Izyum and Kramatorsk. The tree branches it snagged are still caught in various projections on its upper side. Likely it struck a large tree branch which bent and deformed the handrail.

      The “spare part TELARs” were still on the bases when this photo was taken on July 4.

    • Charles Wood // March 1, 2016 at 1:23 pm // Reply

      “To me it would seem insane to have BUK anywhere near front line,”

      Buk are intended to defend Brigade and Division units against all forms of aerial attack including helicopters and cruise-missiles.

      They have a maximum range of ~30km which reduces significantly for low level attackers. They will necessarily be close to the units they protect.

      In an advance they will tend to follow the command group and depending on the ‘leading from the front’ philosophy that can be close to the front lines.

      • sotilaspassi // March 2, 2016 at 1:56 pm // Reply

        “They have a maximum range of ~30km”
        I imagine 10km from front line the sane minimum for those devices anyway. And to protect from ground attack aircraft on flat ground one should use elevated radar.
        (in RU satellite images UA BUK launchers are 3km from the frontline, according to the study above, and IIRC inside rebel area in bellingcat (etc?) info) 3km = not sane for BUK kind of device even if ok for strela etc..

        • sotilaspassi:

          “(in RU satellite images UA BUK launchers are 3km from the frontline”

          There was no front line with trenches and facing opponents. I showed an equidistant “Line of Contact”, crossing over which you would presumably start to get in danger of being shot or hit with mortars. The nearest actual rebel positions were on the H21 highway 8 km away at Hirne and Zachtivka.

          “and IIRC inside rebel area in bellingcat (etc?) info) 3km = not sane for BUK kind of device even if ok for strela etc..”

          The way Bellingcat sees it, several of the surrounding towns were occupied by the DNR and they see the “Line of Contact” passing through Mala Shyshivka somewhat north of the Donetsk Escarpment, on which the frontline Ukrainian positions were placed in their view.

          Consider for a moment, would not Russia be aware of where the positions of the different armed groups of the DNR were and where the Ukrainian Army and National Guard was if they were supplying weapons, officers, and soldiers to the DNR groups? If so, how could the Russian General Staff be ignorant that when they “faked” Ukrainian BUK’s at Zaroshchenske in the space image, per Bellingcat, they were placing them in rebel held territory? Why not fake them in north of Novopetrivske, about 27 km from the last FDR point/emergency transmitter beacon, and thus well in range? So the Bellingcat accusations really come down to the Russian General Staff being ignorant or stupid or incompetent at lying when they have all the resources and knowledge of the 2nd most powerful country in the world at their disposal, but that some random western and Ukrainian bloggers have figured it all out within days.

          How believable do you find that assertion?

  2. Marcel, thank you for publishing this.

    Dear fellow readers, I invite your comments, clarifications, and corrections on this paper.

  3. http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Crash_of_Malaysia_Airlines_flight_MH17/Zaroshchenskoye

    Pay attention to the map. It is claimed to be caught from Ukrainian army. So source is disputable but circumstantially can be used as part of the argument

    • I’m aware of the map and do not believe it is accurate. The artillery grid coordinates are marked incorrectly. The military locations shown are entirely unverifiable. Therefore I did not refer to it.

  4. The interview by Shariy was discredited, so better not to use.

  5. Thank you for this detailed informations. There is no doubt that south of Z. ukrainian Telars where located.
    But nevertheless, following the official DSB report there a reasonable doubts that a BUK warhead could have made the damage to MH 17.
    Because of
    http://www.whathappenedtoflightmh17.com/how-russia-today-and-john-helmer-twist-facts-on-missile-impact/#comment-11276

  6. So Andrew, still believe that 40 tons of BUK can move through a field of dried out July underbrush and not leave a path?

    Strange that a tank can drive through a gas station and leave marks that are still visible today, but two BUKs of about the same weight can drive through a farmers field and not leave a mark so it can be imaged by the Russian MoD.

    It looks like they were just dropped there by a helicopter and then picked up again.
    MoD manipulated the images.
    A BUK is not something you can put in granny gear and slowly idle into location, the BUK’s driving ability is not the easiest.
    The horsepower and crawler tracks would tear up the ground like a bulldozer.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dntxuTPA-gg

    Fare thee well

    • The sat picture showing two BUKs in a field near Z is clearly faked. A journalist spoke to someone who worked on that exact field the whole day and saw nothing!
      Isn’t it weird there are many eyewitness who claim to have seen one or more Su25s while nobody saw a BUK near Z? Many journalists visited the area.
      Maybe more south or southeast there was a BUK. But not near Z,

      • Wind tunnel man // November 9, 2015 at 2:54 pm // Reply

        Admin:

        “The sat picture showing two BUKs in a field near Z is clearly faked. A journalist spoke to someone who worked on that exact field the whole day and saw nothing!”

        I thought the guy who was interviewed said he was working in a field near to Z (not necessarily the field seen in the sat picture) all day and didn’t see a BUK missile system deployed. If so, at what time did he finish working in the field? If he was still in a field during the late afternoon, possibly driving a noisy tractor in the opposite direction from a possible launch site, would he have seen or heard the launch?

        • It is very simple:
          There is no witness who reported seeing or hearing BUK missile launched from near Z.
          There are quite a few witness reporting they saw a missile somewhere south of Snizhne. Now not all eyewitness report the same story. But they all report seeing a missile launched south of Snizhne. There are also calculations of Almaz, Ukraine and Dutch investigators indicating the same area.

          That missile must have been launched from that 320 km2 area

          • Wind tunnel man // November 9, 2015 at 4:08 pm //

            Admin:

            Sorry I was just questioning your assertion that the witness was working in the exact same field as seen in the Russian sat picture all day and didn’t see anything.

            Please also expand on your statement that Almaz also calculated the launch area to be within the same 320 km2 area estimated by the Ukrainian and Dutch investigators.

            Also would witnesses in the area south of Snizhne, who are not familiar with SAM systems or ground-to-ground missile systems, be able to say with certainty that they actually saw a BUK launched on the day and time in question?

          • Please read the DSB final report. You will see the AA calculated area which is south of Snizhne. Make sure to read the Appendix on comments as well to get the full picture.

            Nobody who saw a missile flying overhead probably identified it as a BUK. But a missile is a missile and not a drone/helicopter/SU25.
            As with SU25 eyewitness there are a bit too much eyewitness who saw a missile to disqualify their claim.

      • Boggled:

        “two BUKs of about the same weight can drive through a farmers field and not leave a mark”

        Admin:

        “A journalist spoke to someone who worked on that exact field the whole day and saw nothing!”

        The report includes a picture on page 71 taken by CORRECT!V of that very field taken on the ground. The field is a fallow field showing no signs of crops growing, so nothing to be worked and no work needing to a person to be in the field all day on July 17. So someone who claimed to have spent a day working the field was unlikely to be referring to the correct field. I noted in reviewing the interviews that most of the interviewers failed to actually go to the location pointed to by the Russian MOD.

        Referring to Google Earth, its clear that the fields worked around that time were west of the town across the road to Shaposhnykovo. The ones being actively worked on July 16/17 were not only west of the road, but generally at or north of the village and the truck scale, and thus a kilometer or more away from the Russian MOD site and blocked from any viewing of it by the treeline along the road. The Russian site is accessible not only by the main road, but also by a field road behind the trees. The only other field being worked nearby was a field 2 km southwest by Zakharchenko village. It is located 50 m lower in elevation, so may not have had any sort of vantage with which to view towards the BUK’s.

        Lastly, Russia did not say the BUK’s there made a launch, only that they were photographed in that area. If they launched, its quite likely they moved to another location first.

        There are heavy equipment tracks on the road and then curving away and leading into the field clearly visible on the picture. Since the field is weedy and unplowed, its unlikely it was farm equipment.

        Last point, Russia insisted to the DSB this photo should be included in the DSB report on MH17. If it was entirely and verifiably faked, that is a strange step for Russia to take.

      • > The sat picture showing two BUKs in a field near Z is clearly faked

        At the presentation where MoD showed the “fake” image they also pointed out that a US spy satellite was flying above (not directly above but in the area from where the site could be easily imaged (the sat is known)). MoD specifically challenged the US to present their imagery.

        However, after the loud claims that the US had “enormous amount of evidence” they’ve gone very quiet. Nothing had been brought forward, and nothing were used in the report.

        Pretty strange circumstances surrounding the “fake”, don’t you find, admin?

        I also want to bring to your attention the fact that if there were Buks at Z, then they’d be a part of a shoot-and-run operation, so not all logic would apply as usual.

        • Eugene:

          Digital Globe’s satellite which took publicly available photos of Donetsk and Lugansk on July 17 (I believe GEO1?) was also in position to take a photo of Shakhtersk-Zaroshchenske on that day as well. Either it took the photo and it is witheld from the public or for some reason it just conveniently skipped that area.

          It is obvious many other satellites passed over the same area as well on July 17 including American spy satellites. The Marie Harf Q&A claims Russia’s MOD map of BUK deployments is a red-herring and misrepresents the BUK deployments (which are not denied, but said to have been in different locations), but says nothing to indicate that the pictures are fake. It would have been easy for them to make that claim, and easier to declassify a photo saying “look, nothing is here”, but they did not. Its also interesting that the Americans claim that Russia’s map is incorrect, but also claim they have no AWACS data of BUK radar emissions (while Russia’s map is undoubtedly based on their claimed AWACS data from their own systems). Then the only thing the Americans could possibly make such a claim on would be satellite photos showing Ukrainian BUK’s in another location than what Russia showed on July 17. But they refuse to provide this information as well.

          • Very appropriate comment, thanks!
            There is little doubt (for me at least) that the area had high priority for military imaging, both for Russia and the US (Ukraine is a field for the proxy war after all), and probably for commercial imaging too. The fact that the commercial imagery is not available for that day, should at least raise some suspicions that the situation with the “fake” photo is not as simple.

            As to the red herring thing. Yes, this idea has been voiced in the Russian investigating community. Someone speculated that the Z site could have been where the AAM (R-27) missile was launched from, which could have been caught by a Russian military radar.

    • If you calculate the weight of a BUK Telar (or another medium size tank) versus the area of tank tracks you will “astonishingly” find that the pressure per inch is not higher than that of the heel of a soldier’s or peasant’s boots. In other words, outside the mud or snow season, no impressive marks are necessarily seen, and impossibly from a satellite imagery (btw. it makes a difference when a tank or tracked vehicle is stopping or turning from higher speed with m*v^2).

      In hot summer, when the road surfacing is hot and softened, even car tires may cause marks. But it is highly unlikely that any of them will be visible in aerial photography.

      • I assume we are considering the fake Russian satellite images here. (fake because of shadows vs time, because field road tracks vs other sat images, because of shadows of BUK units, etc.)

        I’m absolutely sure there should be visible track marks of BUK in Jul20 and Jul23 SAT images if BUK drove there.
        +It is unlikely BUK’s would have turned on field road (without marks on road) and droven to field without turning there.
        +IIRC, people went to the site and did not see track marks on the field.

        (and someone should have seen it + the launch + damage on MH17 is impossible versus zaroh. location launch)

        • If you read my report, I note that no one ever went into the field and took any photos.

          The closest anyone got was CORRECT!V who made it to the gravel field road north of the field. They took and published pictures there that show heavy equipment tracks on the road which also lead into the fallow and unplanted field.

  7. No Andrew, the vehicle (or any heavy equipment) at 5.22 of this video would never leave a trail through waist high underbrush that could be seen by satellite.
    It could sneak in unknown and not leave a trail, RIGHT?
    Maybe it is an Native American BUK, since they know how to walk without leaving a trail, yeahhhhh, that is it.
    Waist high underbrush, and not a trail shown, surrree, I can get on board with that!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHLip-HnBjM

    Fare thee well

    • boggled:

      “leave a trail through waist high underbrush that could be seen by satellite”

      There is no waist high underbrush visible in the photos taken by CORRECT!V of the field. Please read the entire report and examine the evidence if you are going to act like you are commenting on the evidence.

  8. Wind tunnel man // November 9, 2015 at 5:34 pm // Reply

    Admin:

    “…Make sure to read the Appendix on comments as well to get the full picture.”

    Do you mean “Appendix V – Consultation Part A”?

  9. I understood that Almaz-Antey first calculated a launch area of a possible BUK missile based on data supplied by the Dutch Safety Board, and on request of them and that only this result is published in the final report published October 13th. The data supplied by the DSB could have been incorrect. The presentation of Almaz-Antey on October 13th was clearly based on other data. Correct me where I’m wrong.

    • Wind tunnel man // November 9, 2015 at 8:04 pm // Reply

      Rob Nuijten:

      “I understood that Almaz-Antey first calculated a launch area of a possible BUK missile based on data supplied by the Dutch Safety Board, and on request of them and that only this result is published in the final report published October 13th. The data supplied by the DSB could have been incorrect.”

      Thanks for the explanation.

      In the DSB report Appendix V – Consultation Part A the Russians are saying the missile crossed on a heading of 72 to 78 degrees in the horizontal and 20 to 22 degrees in the vertical relative to the aircraft’s heading, this was not accepted by the Dutch who took the data provided by NLR and NTO to be more representative of the missile’s direction and orientation.

  10. On 11 February 2015 the SMM visited Kramatorsk. They wrote :

    „At their location in Kramatorsk near the city centre, the SMM heard at 08:03hrs and 12:45hrs the sound of four outgoing surface to air missiles fired from a south-eastern sector of Kramatorsk airport. The SMM could see the smoke trails left by the missiles. At 12:45hrs the SMM observed that a missile hit its target, which created a fireball and scattered debris in the sky above the airport. The SMM could not identify the targets of the missiles.“
    http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/140271

    That´s indeed an impotant information. But it was never mentioned anywhere !
    Nobody asked Kiev to whom they were shooting at.

    • I remember having seen a video showing a missile which indeed hit a target. searched for it and it turned out to be most likely a MANPADS.
      Do not have the url or any other source. Video was filmed from a flat. Not sure about the city.

  11. Do we have anywhere a collection of all available high resolution satellite imagery, especially from DSB described launch area?

    Immediately before & after 17Jul2014.

    Would love to spend a moment in analyzing them.

    (material from the suspected BUK route is also very much wanted, but I think very little is available in public)

    /me have to set up google earth and start learning…

    • If there were satellite images available from the BUK transport, someone would have given a hint to Bellingcat which images to purchase from Digital Globe or someone would already have “leaked” them to the press a long time ago …

      During the whole conflict in the Donbass there have never been any satellite images published which showed that the Russians did deliver weapons to the separatists etc. Obviously the Russians know about the American satellite capabilities …

      • >BUK transport

        Yes, but never the less, I would be interested in digging deeper to the shadows of those images. We know BUK was there because it exploded MH17 cocpit.

        >never been any satellite images published which showed that the Russians did deliver weapons to the separatists

        1) deliveries happen during night, no satellite images possible
        2) RU knows satellite schedules
        3) google satellites have anyway photographed tens of attacks over the border with GRAD and tanks
        4) we see from geolocated photographs that latest RU gear is in Ukraine, no need for sat images about those any more

  12. bc seem to have 17Jul SAT images from the whole Donetsk area, let’s see if they publish something from the Zaro area.

    • Zaroh. is outside of the view of this GeoEye-1 image:
      https://img-fotki.yandex.ru/get/57551/230070060.3c/0_11fee7_834694bd_orig.jpg
      But at least it would seem not clouded in that direction.

      • GeoEye-1 managed to take a picture of Donetsk and one of Lugansk on July 17 from an oblique angle while passing over Southern Russia. These are released for sale to the public by Digital Globe, presumably with approval of the American National Reconnaisance Office.

        Spy satellites are made to take lots and lots of pictures on every orbit, not to just take a picture here or there every so often. I think we can easily conclude pictures were taken in between Donetsk and Lugansk that would cover Zaroshchenske and more, and that the satellite probably took a continuous series of shots to create a strip running east west until it hit its angular limit.

        That these pictures were not released for purchase to the public tells me everything I need to know about whether or not they show Ukrainian BUK batteries and other embarrassing information.

        That the western media and Bellingcat never even raise this issue confirms this again.

        • sotilaspassi // June 9, 2016 at 5:20 am // Reply

          >That these pictures were not released for purchase to the public tells me everything I need to know about whether or not they show Ukrainian BUK batteries

          I’m disappointed on your standards for BUK proof..

          >That the western media and Bellingcat never even raise this issue confirms this again.

          How do you know bc does not publish 17.7 images from zaroh area? (I got no answer yet)

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