Maybe because the official (pro-)western narrative about the disaster of flight MH17 is rotten at its core, but three protagonists of this story chose to play deaf and dumb when awkward counter-evidence arrived at their desks.
Despite strong back-up from western and anti-Russian governments and media the trail of evidence established to put blame on the eastern Ukrainian rebels for downing flight MH17 seems to be unraveling. As can be read on the blogs on this site, and the sources used to write them, large parts of the proof have been debunked or display so much inconsistencies it´s a mystery why the Joint Investigation Team still holds up the leading narrative of a Russian crew firing a BUK missile to shoot down a passenger plane by accident.
Various organizations and renowned bloggers, like pro-NATO crowdsourcing collective Bellingcat, Dutch anti-Russian blogger Ukraine-at-war and Russian opposition journalist Sergey Parkhomenko, tried to support the pro-Kiev strains of evidence. And got in trouble.
Ukraine-at-war in backpedaling mode
In his 14th of August blog Ukraine-at-war pretended to hear nor see any evil when he issued new evidence of an alleged transport accompanying the truck with low-loader to deliver a BUK launching complex in Snizhne on midday the 17th of July, 2014. Finally, more than a year later, Ukraine-at-war claimed to have identified the trucks and tanks comprising the BUK convoy. They were from the Vostok battalion, a group of pro-separatist volunteers originating from different eastern regions, like Ossetia, Abkhasia and Chechnya.
In fact, this BUK containing convoy had been an invention propelled by Ukrainian official Dmitri Tymchuk after the crash, but prepared before. The existence of this transport was suggested by re-uploading a video of the Vostok convoy and disseminating realtime sightings supposedly from local residents through i.e. the Euromaidan facebook account and a couple of personal textmessages tweeted by pro-Kiev infowarriors. The truth established was this convoy never existed, as is elaborately exposed by a report from Micha Kobs which I used to write this blogpost.
Ukraine-at-war used for his identification footage of the 17th july Vostok convoy, on its way from Donetsk to Marinovka to attend the heavy fighting going on there. A small snippet of footage from the convoy had appeared in a video from Russia Today, called Uncut Chronicles. There was no BUK to be seen.
Nevertheless, by dogma it should have been there, so when the facts didn´t fit the story, Ukraine-at-war changed the facts, not the story. He performed this outstanding job by suggesting RT must have withheld evidence for as they showed footage of the infamous BUK transport, but not of the BUK itself.
¨It means it is very well possible that the BUK was filmed at this moment too! But RT left those shots unpublished for obvious reasons.¨
A few hours after his posting around midnight I presented to him the Kobs report and my article to support the claim the BUK in reality never drove with the Vostok convoy. Apparently in the morning he added a tiny sentence to the above cited quotation:
¨Or the loader came a little bit later and wasn’t catched on film.¨
Furthermore, after the revision at the end of his blog was stated:
¨Conclusion: Considering the fact that none of the videos with the Vostok tanks show the BUK, it seems likely that the BUK has been transported a little bit or some more time later.¨
This way he covered the absence of the BUK in the vids of the Vostok convoy, but at the same time kept clinging to the idée fix the BUK should have been there some way and would therefore also have been filmed by RT. Nevertheless he had backpedaled. The story which obvioulsy was meant to show evidence of the BUK containing convoy now was revised to a story of RT withholding evidence, clearly based on dogmatism.
To keep this story alive he never released my comment (with the sources) on his blog and blocked me instanteneously on twitter. Obviously it was advisable to play deaf and dumb.
For Bellingcat everything fits
The Bellingcat collective is guarding the picture of an alleged BUK launch plume as if its a crown juwel. In fact, it is. If investigation will lead to a trial, probably by a ¨hybrid¨ Tribunal , possibly this picture will be at the forefront of the case against the separatists.
When defending the socalled plume pic, apparently everything was allowed. Blocking dissenters, like forensic specialist Charles Wood; Neglect to consult an expert who had shown their ¨original¨ timestamped plume pic wasn´t an original and, besides, had been digitally altered; And revising their story a few times to keep up with the inconsistent testimonies made by the photographer.
In January 2015 they issued a full account to establish the veracity of the launch plume in a research document written bij editor Daniel Romein. Forensic analyst Charles Wood made some devastating comments on the Bellingcat website, which initially were removed (later on reinstated). One of his points of criticism concerned this quotation from the report:
“Based on the metadata of the RAW files we received, we can be completely certain that these files are the original files and that the pictures were taken on 17 July 2014 at 16:25:41 EEST and 16:25:48 EEST.”
¨This is completely untrue. All he can be certain of is the image metadata gives those dates, not that they are true. (…) Romein does not know what the time and date was set in the camera; he has no idea what camera actually recorded the images; and he has no idea whether the images were written to the card by a camera or were copied there from a computer. These are the sorts of things that a professional forensic examination looks at with a view to finding inconsistencies.¨
Wood also consulted Dr. Neal Krawetz, developper of Photophorensics, a tool to investigate digital alterations in images resulting from saving and compression. According to him the Bellingcat pic of the plume – the ¨original¨ Bellingcat received from Aleynikov, as they claimed – was ¨digitally altered¨, ¨with artificial noise added before saving to BMP¨, possibly ¨to deter analysis¨.
By the way, Krawetz tweeted later on, this wasn´t the original picture. In fact this shook the entire metadata basis Bellingcat relied on to make this pic a genuinely realtime captured early stage missile trail with an established timestamp.
Apparently Bellingcat didn´t consult Krawetz nor read his remarks, when replying with some ill-informed statements about this matter – in fact ¨lying through their teeth¨, to use a much heard soundbite when discussing the MH17 case with their believers :
¨These are uncompressed and unedit BMPs of the original RAW files if you want to take a look at them yourself https://www.dropbox.com/sh/zld18bbq0w3lrq9/AABpj4pUW7NaR5TohyA2R1xva?dl=0
Dr Krawetz was working a copy of the image shared on Twitter that had been resized and had various levels changed to make the smoke clearer than in the original image.¨
In fact Krawetz did his performance with 2.BMP from the dropbox. Confronted with this, Bellingcat replied with an appeal to authority: ¨In that case it’ll be interesting to see if the experts the police consult agree.¨
The metadata issue was harbouring many inconsistencies in statements from the photographer Bellingcat took for granted. To keep up with all the criticism that arrived at their desks, the official statements had to be changed more than once.
The January report mentioned i.e:
¨Because we know that flight MH17 was hit around 16:20 EEST, the camera’s time stamp was approximately 4 minutes to 4 minutes and 30 seconds ahead of the real time¨.
So when according to the metadata the timestamp for the first pic was set on 16:25:41 and 4 to 4:30 minutes should be deducted, the real time of capture would be 16:21:11-41 EEST. This would have been about 1:30 minute after the firing of the missile. Aleynikov would have captured the socalled ¨first stage missile trail¨, as Bellingcat corroborated in its report:
¨Even the cloud of grey smoke characteristic of the first stage of a Buk missile launch (shown on the following images [Then, in fact showing 4 BUK launches in which one can see only dust blasts; HR]) can be seen in the 17 July 2014 pictures.¨
But it could be established from the time the tanks of the plane hit the ground at Grabovo, at about 16:23 assuming some minutes descent time, the plume pic would have been taken before the crash! So this timeline obviously was impossible.
Solving of this mystery got jammed more when Bellingcat´s Daniel Romein changed the story and Aleynikov apparently had too:
¨(…) the 17 July photographs were taken 30 seconds to two minutes after the crash [so not after the launch, as was suggested before; HR], not hours of course (the photographer first mentioned 30 seconds, but later said it was about 1 or 2 minutes).¨
If the pictures were taken 2 minutes after the crash at about 16:23, a time of 16:25 is more or less accurate. But what then about the 4 to 4:30 minutes the camera allegedly was off realtime? That story didn´t change and was left unspoken, until it was adapted to new evidence much later. More than half a year later, to be exact.
On August the 7th, 2015, Bellingcat issued an article cheering for an initiative of a Russian discussion forum to pinpoint the exact time of the plume pics. According to Bellingcat this helped their case, because:
¨(…) this exercise in tandem with the self-reported EXIF data demonstrates that the launch photograph was indeed taken soon after 4:20pm, the time of the MH17 downing.¨
Indeed the administrator of the Russian site webtalk.ru, @bootblack, invented an ingenious way to establish the time the plume pic was taken with shadow casting analysis, sunny pictures of the same spot at various times and a forum of experts (see here). The time of the first Aleynikov pic was set at a time of about 16:22:40 EEST, so at about 2.5 minutes after the plane lost contact.
The 4 to 4.5 minutes the camera was ahead of realtime to make a photo of an early stage trail, according to Bellingcat at 16:21:11-41, now was set straight by claiming the internal clock was only about 3 minutes ahead of realtime.
¨The administrator later calculated what he saw as a more accurate time based on the line alignment in the two photographs: 4:22:40pm on July 17, 2014. If the results of the “shadow poll” experiment are trusted, the camera’s internal clock was about 3 minutes fast.¨
Just as easy as that. Its really convenient if one has some room for adjustment. However, the mystery that wasn´t solved was how Aleynikov could have captured an ¨early stage¨ missile trail more than 3 minutes after the launch, an issue Bellingcat buried into oblivion.
Apparently for Bellingcat everything fits. Facts can be bent to fit the narrative and inconsistencies are set aside to never be mentioned again.
Sergey Parkhomenko knows nothing
Meduza is a Latvian based online newspaper lead by people from the Russian opposition, allegedly backed by Putin foe Khodorkovsky. In February an English version was launched, so it could not do any harm when Meduza blogger Sergey Parkhomenko showed with an extensive blog on the Aleynikov plume pictures what kind of affinity could be expected of this new medium.
The part of the blog which contained the testimony of the photographer mentioned statements that were clearly not at ease with statements he had done before nor with evidence that was collected after the Parkhomenko interview was released. Important issue was from which position the photographer had taken his plume pic, from his southern balcony with a view to the alleged launchsite or from the roof with a view over the entire area.
In the Parkhomenko blog the statement made by the photographer was:
“During the day, while I was in my own apartment in a building on the outskirts of Torez, I heard thunder, much stronger than the customary sounds of artillery firing, mortar explosions or the volleys of a Grad. I ran to the window and saw that the wind was slowly erasing a smoke trail over the horizon. My camera lay on the windowsill. I grabbed it and raced up the stairs to the roof in order to take the picture from there.¨
Research on the spot, performed by Max van der Werff, showed this couldn´t be true. Aleynikov had to change his statements again, this time to designate the balcony as the place from which he had taken the plume pics. Obviously this was in full contrast with his ¨racing to the roof¨ statements described in the Parkhomenko blog.
¨The photographer exchanged some information using Facebook with a Russian journalist Sergey Parkhomenko who wrote a blog. According to the photographer he never wrote to Parkhomenko that he took all photos on the roof. There is no prove what actually has been discussed using Facebook.¨
It was clear Parkhomenko, a pretty famous Russian opposition journalist, had been used. In fact, at this moment he was implicitly accused of manipulating the truth. Therefore I sent him some questions by mail, asking him what his thoughts were now, pointing him to the inconsistencies (or lies) in the story Aleynikov had told him:
Dear Madam/ Sir,
As a freelance journalist from the Netherlands I would like to ask some questions to mr. Parkhomenko about a blogpost he wrote on the 17th of March concerning the alleged BUK launch plume. This plume could be the main evidence in a case against the Donbass separatists having fired a missile downing Malaysian Airways flight MH17, causing 295 casualties.
Now rumours have come up a ¨hybrid¨ international trial will be instated, this launch plume photo possibly will be at the forefront of the indictment.
As I understand it from his blogpost, mr. Parkhomenko has written down pieces of Facebook conversations and transscriptions of a taped interview he had with the plume photographer, mr. Aleynikov, regarding the circumstances shooting the pictures. It is this information I have some questions about.
Mr. Aleynikov stated he heard a roar ¨much stronger than the already familiar sounds of running artillery, mortar explosions or bursts¨, clearly alluding to the crash of the main fuselage and tanks at Hrabove. In a december 2014 interview with Dutch commercial TV channel RTL4 he said he first heard an explosion far less heavy than the second, possibly alluding to the impact or the launch of the missile.
Has he told anything to mr. Parkhomenko about hearing more sounds than one?
Mr. Aleynikov said, according to the blogpost: ¨He ran to the window and saw that the wind slowly spread a trail of smoke on the horizon. The camera layed on the windowsill. He grabbed it and ran up the stairs to the roof to move from there.¨
In the above mentioned RTL interview and in a Business Insider interview mr. Aleynikov had at the evening of the day of the crash, he said he went to the covered balcony and saw nothing.
¨Although he did not see the plane crash, he said he ran to his window after hearing the sound of an explosion after the plane fell to the ground. He could not see the situation from his balcony, so he climbed to the roof of his house and “saw the smoke on the horizon.¨ (Business Insider)
¨Immediately I wanted to find out where the sound came from. What had exploded? Where? How? Then I ran to the covered balcony. I looked around and saw nothing.¨ (RTL 4/Olaf Koens)
Did or didn´t mr. Aleynikov see the launch trail from his balcony? What is mr. Parkhomenko´s conclusion about this?
On Facebook mr. Aleynikov told mr. Parkhomenko he grabbed his camera and ran to the roof. There he made his three pictures, at first the two of the launch plume and then, after some 3 minutes, the third of the smoke coming from the wreckage of the plane.
After Dutch citizen investigator Max van der Werff issued an article about this testimony, citizen investigators from Bellingcat passed on information, presumably stated by mr. Aleynikov, the photographer took the first two pictures from his southern balcony.
What does mr. Parkhomenko think about this?
In the blogpost mr. Aleynikov suggests he only took 3 pictures, two of the launch plume, one of the wreckage.
¨Therefore I did not shoot more if I knew about the event I would have been shooting, of course, more. But what exactly happened, I learned only a couple of hours.¨
After mr. Van der Werff´s article more pictures showed up on the website whathappenedtoflightmh17.com. In fact mr. Aleynikov had made 5 shots more of the smoking plane.
What did mr. Aleynikov tell mr. Parkhomenko exactly and what is his opinion about this?
Regarding the importance of the testimony of mr. Aleynikov, is mr. Parkhomenko willing to make the video of his interview with mr. Aleynikov public?
These are my questions. Hopefully mr. Parkhomenko has the opportunity to answer them for which I will be, of course, very grateful.
So thank you in advance and with kind regards,
The deputy editor in chief responded:
I have send your letter to Sergey Parkhomenko and we had a small talk about it. He doesn’t know who is mr. Aleynikov and he can’t give you any comments about it.
Иван Колпаков / Ivan Kolpakov
заместитель главного редактора / deputy editor-in-chief¨
I tried to persuade the deputy and journalist once more by invoking arguments like accountability, transparency and the need to clear Parkhomenko´s name. But obviously, when your are licking your wounds it is probably best to play dumb.
Can it still be held up?
From this three rather important examples one could conclude that the more problems with the standard narrative arise, the more its protagonists have to backpedal or even play dumb when confronted with their earlier faux-pas. It could be a sign the narrative is flawed at its core.
Therefore it will be interesting to see how a hybrid Tribunal, issuing an indictment based on this standard narrative, will hold under scrutiny done by some crafty lawyers.
Large parts of this article were taken from an upcoming report with a reconstruction of the launch plume discussion. Stay tuned.
 For a definition of a hybrid trial, read: http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199796953/obo-9780199796953-0069.xml
¨While there is no definition, such tribunals tend to apply a mix of national and international law (both procedural and substantive) and feature a blend of international and national elements, in particular international and national judges and personnel.¨
In fact one could say its a trial performed by an internationalized tribunal without full back-up of international law.