The trail that wasn´t a launch plume: a reconstruction

This is a story about an alleged BUK launch contrail, its 10 severe problems and the ever changing testimonies that surrounded it. Furthermore it offers a full physical-mathematical debunk of the only evidence supporting the narrative the Eastern Ukrainian rebels and their Russian helpers launched a BUK to take down flight MH17.

One of the detected irregularities. The enhanced versions of photo 1 and 2, show the dark smoke perfectly curling up into the white plume. According to Bellingcat this feature showed the first stage exhaust of a BUK launch. When the second picture is moved to fit the trail of the first one, it is seen the white smoke doesn´t change in shap, i.e. seems to be immune for wind shear effects.

One of the detected irregularities. The enhanced versions of the two published photos of the alleged BUK launch trail, showing dark smoke curling up into a white plume. According to Bellingcat this feature showed the first stage exhaust of a BUK launch. When the second picture is moved to fit the trail of the first one, it is obvious the white smoke doesn´t change in shape, i.e. seems to be immune for wind shear effects.




An update by Micha Kobs from July 2016 completes the story. After pressure the photographer gave in and handed over the metadata of photos he made of the smoke coming from the burning remains of the plane. With this the actual windspeed on site could be calculated, which was a condition for calculations to verify the distance the alleged launch plume travelled.

With this Kobs showed the launch plume could NOT have originated from the alleged field. Actually the launchspot must have been located right in the backyard of some people in Pervomais’ke village. See this PDF’s:



For the entire story and its developments towards this final debunk, you can read the article below and report attached.


Actually there is not much hard evidence pinpointing the rebels from eastern Ukraine as being the perpetrators of shooting down Malaysian Airways flight MH17 on the 17 the of July, 2014, causing 298 casualties. Of course there have been popping up some images of a truck moving a BUK anti aircraft installation through rebel controlled area on that fateful day, but the many inconsistencies regarding date, origin and features that came up have tarnished the faith in this alleged evidence (see blogposts on and the sources used).

Also one disputable picture of an alleged launch of one of these BUK missiles entered the scene of the infowar that started immediately after the crash to influence the outcome of the whodunnit question. Within hours this picture, first issued by tweeter @WowihaY, alias of Vladimir Djukov, reached world news. This socalled ¨plume pic¨ could be the main evidence in a case against the Donbass separatists having fired the missile. At least, this way it is brought by those who believe strongly in its authenticity. Now rumours have come up a ¨hybrid¨ international trial will be instated, this launch plume photo obviously will be at the forefront of the indictment.

However, as with other evidence constructing the narrative a Russian BUK operating crew shot the plane down by mistake south of Snizhne, the plume and its picture show questionable features. Hence it is advisable, possibly at the evening of a trial, to reconstruct the situation surrounding the surfacing of this important photo.

For that purpose one could start with studying important statements, given by or in the name of the maker of the plume pic, Pavel Aleynikov, formerly citizen of Torez and ex-military of the Ukrainian army. The five main statements made in public have been listed and are analyzed in this report. Because reactions both pro and contra have been provoked by these statements, they will play an important role in this reconstruction as well.

Furthermore research to verify the veracity of the plume pictures has been done. The results of this investigation corroborate the fundamental suspicions many critics had from the start. To sum up, the plume pictures display various problems regarding:

A) Physical features of the plume:
– its width, of about 80-100 meters, 10 times length of the BUK TELAR, 100 times diluted;
– its height, of only about 900-1000 meters, not entering cloudbase;
– no lateral dispersion/wind shear effects; white plume doesn´t change in shape over time;
– the unexplained relation between the black and white smoke shaping the plume.

B) Features of the photos and camera themselves:
– the metadata and internal clock issue;
– the cable issue regarding the 7 second time interval between the 2 plume photos;
– the odd vignetting, added noise and image density discontinuity detected on the Bellingcat ¨originals¨.

C) Counter evidence:
– the pictures of black smoke originating from a mine in the photographer´s line of sight;
– the picture made 6 minutes after the crash from Saur Mogila not showing traces of the launch;
– the calculations showing inconsistent timeline, launchsite and/or altered metadata (see also The mystery of the two-faced launch plume on this blog).

Conclusions reached: the photographer gave a lot of contradicting statements and the trail is probably not a BUK launch plume. It is hardly imaginable the pictures are genuine and still manage to comprise so much irregularities. Hence its very doubtful they will ever reach court benches.

Here you can download the PDF (3MB): The trail that wasn´t a BUK launch plume, a reconstruction

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