This blogpost is the third part of a series that I will publish in the last months before the MH17 trial starts, on March 9, 2020. It will review important parts of the evidence as publically disseminated or (implicitly) endorsed by the JIT.
As social media and open source intelligence (OSINT) played a pivotal role, first part of the series contained an assessment of the OSINT method the JIT also seemed to have embraced. The second part, Strange Ways, showed examples how some parts of the evidence came out in the open, who were the key players and how social and regular media channels were used to clean the alleged evidence from suspicion.
The research presented in the series will reveal more about the questions how the “main scenario” the JIT has worked with was framed, how the OSINT evidence has come about, who have been involved and how the Dutch Safety Board investigations have supported the scenario. The series is supported by an assessment of most publically known evidence (comprising videos, photos, written messages and intercepts by the Ukrainian secret service) in a report of more than 100 pages containing more than 150 links to original sources and verifications.
It seems most if not all evidence ultimately arrived from a special unit, partly operating overtly and partly covertly, tied to the Interior Ministry of Ukraine and the organization that politically resorts under it, the Ukrainian secret service SBU. This blogpost, part 3 of the series called “Behind the screens”, will shed more light on this unit of ultranationalist militia, spotters, infowarriors and SBU operatives.
Part 3. Behind the screens
During the Donbass war some pro-Kiev ultranationalists involved themselves on a regular basis in publishing information on social media about separatist military movements, in order to provide the troops of the Ukrainian anti-terror operation with real life intelligence. (These people are called “spotters”). For this they used hashtags like #ATO or #stopterror.
Some of these people were trained to look-out and watch, at least the ones that really stayed behind enemy lines. Others, part of whom lived outside the conflict zone, only served as information and/or propaganda and fake news relays. Most of them seem to have been loosely connected through their social media accounts and their shared ideology. (For this group I use the designation “infowarriors”).
With the information provided by spotters and infowarriors the troops of the Ukrainian Army could bomb separatist convoys, as happened in the night of July 15 and 16, 2014, near Shakhtarsk.
The tweets by “Patriot Petya” show an example of the work done by spotters and infowarriors, depicting the movement of a separatist convoy in the night of July 15th and 16th:
A separatist convoy is driving from Makiivka to Khartzysk, 23:08 EEST;
Some time later it arrived in Shakhtarsk on its way to Torez/Snizhne (23:19 EEST)
The column had driven through Zuhres towards Shakhtarsk with about 3 tanks, 5 KAMAZ, ZIL 3, 1 gas-66, 3-4 minibus, 5 APCs (23:29 EEST)
Then the column moved through Shakhtarsk into the direction of Torez (00:10 EEST)
Until it was bombed. In Torez and Shakhtarsk the walls trembled (00:46 EEST)
This would also exemplify an operation of great cooperation, according to well known military propagandist Roman Burko in his July 16 blogpost, in which he cheered for another bombing of a separatist transport.
3.1 Buk witnesses
In the case of MH17, only a handful written accounts of Buk presence that were posted on social media on the 17th of July, 2014, before the crash, are known. However, these few accounts seem to have been published by second-hand sources, so from people only relaying information without actually having seen the events described (see the report by Micha Kobs Haunt the Buk and Arnold Greidanus’s study “What you see is all there is” and also section 4.2 of the upcoming part 4. of this series). Of course, this way they also were part of the monitoring structure if “only as last source in a chain of information” – as Buk sighting tweeter @WowihaY phrased it when he was questioned by a reporter.
Many of the ¨infowarriors¨ implicated in the MH17 related evidence appeared to have contacts with each other, at least through their social media accounts. Most of them already before the 17th of July, the day MH17 crashed, especially the people from the Torez/Snizhne area.
Buk sighting tweeter @WowihaY (Vladimir D.) was in contact with alleged Buk launch plume photographer @rescuero (Pavel A.), with Buk sighting tweeter Roman (@MOR2537) and with a witness of the alleged launch plume @andrushka74/ @parabellum_ua (Andrey T.). The identities known were retrieved from social media and by investigations on site, already in 2014-6. (Some sources are given in the social media report that supports this blogpost series).
Also @GirkinGirkin was in direct contact with these people. His tweet, with clear specifics for geolocation, was attached to a photo of an off-loaded Buk on Karapetyan street, Snizhne, and was used by the JIT for constructing a trail. They all followed NecroMancer (@666_mancer), who supplied 11.000 followers, local heroin @HuSnizhne (>20.000 followers) and Dutch pro-Kiev blogger Ukraine@war (now Putin@war).
Actually, first and maybe even most social media evidence about Buk presence in the Donbass, which inspired the JIT to make the statement in a call for witnesses 9 months after the crash that this was its “main scenario” for investigation, was connected somehow to this Torez/Snizhne group. This evidence contained a few tweets before the crash and a few witness accounts and some visual material after (all the links and specifics of these parts can also be read in the social media report):
July 17, 2014, before the crash (in local time; time of the crash is 16:20 EEST):
12:07-12:16 Buk sightings in Torez, posted by @WowihaY
12:20 Hearsay about a written account of a Buk staying in Donetsk, posted by @Occupied_Rook
12:26 Buk sighting in Torez, posted by Roman (@MOR2537)
12:41 Speculation about a Buk in Shakhtarsk, posted by @spice4russia
13:15 Buk sighting from “locals” in Torez, posted by the administrators on the Euromaydan Facebook account, probably inspired by @WowihaY (1)
Wowihay and Roman regroup to talk about the Buk information they posted the day before. Actually the two tweets from both members of the infowarrior group were two of the only three sightings reported on twitter before the plane crashed. A third was posted by someone who followed these two on twitter.
July 17, 2014, after the crash
19:23 A launch plume photo by @rescuero, posted by @WowihaY
< 20:09 a Buk photo in Torez, by Tornado (see section 3.3), anonymously posted
< 20:33 a Buk video in Snizhne, by Vita V. (2), posted on the Balodya Familiev YouTube account
Late evening news (NBC): A witness account of the launch plume, by Andrey T.
Late evening news (Business Insider): A witness account of the plane crash, by @rescuero
After July 17, 2014
0:27, 18.7.2014 Buk photo on Karapetyan street, Snizhne, with specific clues, posted by @GirkinGirkin (source of the Bellingcat Buk trail; original source unknown)
24.7.2014 Conversation concerning an alleged witness account of a launch plume, as retrieved from the smartphone app Zello, by @WowihaY in cooperation with blogger Ukraine@war (3)
13.7.2015 A witness account of a “local journalist” in Snizhne/Torez (maybe @WowihaY) in a Novaya Gazeta article (4)
3.5.2016 A Buk video in Makiivka, released on the same day of a BBC documentary also featuring @WowihaY, in which he claims another video of the Buk is known to him (5). Also corroborated by Anonymous (see section 3.2) as known to the unit from the start.
28.9.2016 A launch plume photo, connected to Andrey T., posted by the JIT
28.9.2016 A video of the Buk in Torez, by Tornado, as was mentioned by their leader Ruslan Onishchenko and censor.net editor Yuri Butusov (see section 3.3), posted by the JIT
(1) Speculative. However, contacts between @WowihaY and Euromaydan on 17.7.2014 have been established; [source: https://hectorreban.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/plume-a-reconstruction8.pdf p.22 and p.43]
(2) Speculative, however there are 2 clues: she lived near T. and she probably was also evacuated from the area in August 2014, just like him; There is strong suspicion she gave video material from her apartment straight to the SBU. See part 2 of this blogseries, section 2.1;
(3) See http://ukraineatwar.blogspot.com/2014/07/tapped-prorussian-conversations-confirm.html; The missile must have followed an unusual and improbable curveball trajectory from the north to the north-west. See also full social media report about this alleged witness account.
(4) Speculative, however Dyukov (@WowihaY) was known as a “local journalist”, because he worked for news channel Torez.info and the account in the article matches his tweeted sighting; In a web based list of patriots, Dyukov is also named “journalist”.
(5) In a BBC documentary, broadcasted on May 3, 2016, @WowihaY claimed another video of the Buk transport was known to him https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/proginfo/2016/18/conspiracy-files However, the documentary itself is not available any more. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0791ns4
Spotters. Left: Vita V. photo, posted in the morning of the 15th on Vk.com showing the bombing of Saurivka, as seen from her apartment. Right: The same bombing as shot from an observation post, posted by Andrey T. on twitter, also on July 15th. Both photos could be used to identify the makers of the Snizhne video and of a picture of an alleged launch plume that was presented by the JIT on their press conference of September 28th, 2016.
Of course, it is perfectly understandable and legitimate that people with pro-Kiev nationalist political views engaged themselves in this kind of work. It’s also not that strange that those people would be in contact with each other on a regular basis, sharing information and so on.
However, behind the alleged evidence about Buk presence and missile launch lurks a story from which even the least sceptical person would raise an eyebrow. For starters, some people of the group were in direct contact with the Interior Ministry, commanding the feared secret service of Ukraine, the SBU, an organization implicated in torture and the creation of fake news and fake evidence.
3.2 The launch plume photo: Involvement of Anton Gerashchenko
After MH17 was shot down and people were investigating the origins of the social media evidence, also a few interviews with participants of a small voluntary reconnaissance unit tied to the Interior Ministry showed up. Apparently some of the people behind the witness accounts belonged to a group that was tighter knit than only loose web based contacts would testify. In an interview with Anonymous it was said:
“In 2014, when the Russian aggression was just beginning, we created a group of patriotic-minded [pro-Kiev; HR] residents of the Donbass. It consisted only of a very narrow circle of people who had long been familiar and confident in each other. (…) They collaborated with the antiterrorist operation center [ATO], the fighters of the [Volunteer battalions], reconnaissance and directly with units of the Airforce.”
Because in the article Anonymous mentions the launch plume pictures as products of the group, the person being interviewed belonged to the same small group of confidants as @rescuero alias of photomaker Pavel A, and his friend Vladimir D. aka @WowihaY, who tweeted the photos shot by Pavel.
In fact @WowihaY was – according to an interview with the plume photographer, see screengrab below – also in contact with the Ukrainian secret service, SBU, and/or with Ukrainian advisor for the Ministry of the Interior, Anton Gerashchenko.
Part of a transscript of an interview Dutch reporter Olaf Koens had with plume photographer @rescuero for the Dutch commercial channel RTL4, states:
“I got into contact with my friend [@WowihaY, as he posted the plume and smoke photo’s; HR] and gave him the photos including the originals. This friend contacted the SBU and at the SBU they showed interest in the photos. He conveyed them to the SBU. After that I had to explain the details of the photographs and hand over my camera.”
Of course, the Interior Ministry was politically responsible for the secret service, the SBU, so the connection @rescuero made, was not that far-fetched.
In an interview @WowihaY had a year later, he mentioned that his contacts with Gerashchenko were mediated by a middleman, the formerly Torez based politician Vitaly Kropachev. Gerashchenko would have received the plume pictures at about midnight from him, according to this interview.
Perhaps @WowihaY had forgotten Gerashchenko already had posted the picture with the alleged Buk launch plume somewhat more than an hour after him on Facebook, at 20:45 EEST, with inside information about the location from where it had been captured, the residence of @rescuero alias Pavel A. So apparently they were into contact much sooner.
Andrey T. was living in Gagarin street, Snizhne, close to the apartment from where the Snizhne video was taken [see screengrab below]. From an array of social media traces his identity was retrieved. Photos that could be watched via Google Earth and photo albums showed that he made pictures from building 26 at Gagarin street, where he lived, and also from building 43 across the road, where Vita V. lived.
Possibly T. knew Vita V., who was watching the fights at Savur Mohyla from her apartment and who apparently was the maker of the video in which a self-propelling Buk was driving from Snizhne to the alleged launch site. Also Max van der Werff confirmed this site when he was in the area interviewing people from this apartment block.
T. was also mentioned as a witness of the launch plume in an article in NBC News, published on the evening of the crash. It seems plausible he was brought in through the contacts @WowihaY had with Kropachev and Gerashchenko and the relations of the latter with regime friendly western news organizations. At least, this was presumably the way Buk launch plume photographer @rescuero entered the anti-Russian newsservice.
To the screenshot above: Was Andrey T. (aka @andrushka74, @parabellum_ua, @aksneo), twitter acquaintance of @WowihaY, introduced as a (false) witness to the western press through the @WowihaY/Kropachev/Gerashchenko contacts? It is assumed also plume photographer @rescuero – friend of @WowihaY – was offered to Aaron Gell from Business Insider to point his finger to “the terrorists” as cause of the crash he had witnessed.
@rescuero appeared on stage as witness of the crash (and, interestingly, not of the launch plume photo he had provided), pointing his finger to the ¨terrorists¨ in a Business Insider interview, published on the evening of the crash [see also my report about the reconstruction of the launch plume story, p.5-7]. Both articles, the one with @rescuero and the one featuring T., also mention Gerashchenko as a source.
T. came on stage later again, when the JIT claimed they had found a new picture of the alleged plume of a Buk launch in Spring 2016 on social media after intensive research. In fact, the photo never had appeared on social media. Apparently the real source had to be shielded off.
The photo showed to have a connection with T., as only two days before the crash he had posted a photo on twitter (using his @parabellum_ua account) from an exactly matching point of view as this new launch plume photo showed . Below an overlay of the 15 July photo of the Saurivka bombing and the launch plume picture as “found” by the JIT.
Apparently he could get hold of visuals from what was suspected to be a camera standing on a tripod in an observation post away from his own residence, a camera that was surveilling the southern surroundings of Snizhne. In a tweet he confirmed this.
Also @WowihaY reappeared later on. In a May 3, 2016, BBC documentary he claimed that there was another video of the Buk transport, until then unknown. At the same day a video showing the Buk transport in Makiivka was published on a one-time used YouTube channel (see section 2.1 in part 2). Why did he want us to know? Because he was sure it would be made public really soon after the documentary?
3.3 A triumvirate and their militia for special operations
The fact that (former) local residents who played their part in the information relays about the Buk movement, happened to be acquainted, was established by research. That also spies were involved in tracking of the transport of the Buk was already made clear by a statement on 19.7.2014 from SBU counter-intel chief Viktor Nayda (see screengrab below).
Minister Arsen Avakov said about a video of a Buk transport in Luhansk, when he made it public on the July 18th, that “…covert surveillance units of the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior recorded a tow truck loaded with a track-mounted missile system …”. As the video was shot from an apartment it was clear that safehouses in DPR/LPR area were used by these covert surveillance units.
Interesting aspect of the dissemination of this video was that National Security Advisor Andrey Lysenko had made clear in a press conference on July 17, about 17:10 local time, there was a video of a Buk transport in Luhansk, before he was made aware MH17 was downed. (See from min. 6:00). This raised the question if the Avakov video was in the hands of the SBU before the 17th and was not captured in the morning of the 18th.
Key player in building up the reconnaissance group of covert intelligence operatives, spotters and infowarriors was local politician and would-be oligarch Vitaly Kropachev, as the poster of the famous pictures of an alleged Buk launch plume, @WowihaY, alluded to in the interview earlier mentioned (see below).
Kropachev lived in Torez before the civil war, actually nearby the site where the Buk was photographed in front of the Stroi Dom market, according to some profiles on social media. He was a former police officer and member of the Donetsk city council, belonging to the same party as Anton Gerashchenko and Arsen Avakov (The Party of Regions).
He ascended the ladder of power when the Maidan regime was installed, to become an assistant of the Ministry of Energy, being responsible for the Coal Industry and Transport Safety. With this position he took on the fight with Donbass oligarch Rinat Akhmatov for obtaining more assets, according to some news sites [here and here]
Another article wrote about his background:
“This businessman from Torez is the beneficiary of a multitude of coal schemes, including the supply of coal from uncontrolled territories.
It was Kropachev, according to media reports, who owned the idea of creating the infamous Shakhtërsk battalion (later renamed Tornado), in which many local criminals recorded atrocities against civilians in the ATO zone.
After the outbreak of the war, he worked closely with Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, as well as his adviser Anton Gerashchenko. Kropachev closely fell in line with the People’s Deputy from the BCP Igor Kononenko, who gave him the “go-ahead” to build schemes to control the coal industry.
Kropachev also appears as a participant in schemes for transporting coal from the US to “Centrenergo”. “
So Kropachev was connected to rightwing extremist militia Battalion Shakhtërsk, from which a part was subsequently regrouped in Tornado, allegedly as a sponsor and according to the media also in the chain of command.
The Tornado battalion was established in mid-June 2014 by the Interior Ministry of Ukraine. Its core was made of residents of Shakhtarsk, Torez and Snizhne who had worked for the police or secret service before the area was controled by the DPR. Anton Gerashchenko, who in 2014 was Minister Avakov’s aide and the first person that announced that a Putin-supplied Buk shot down MH17, attended the battalion’s oath-taking ceremony on July 8, 2014. He also was Kropachev’s personal friend.
Ruslan Onishchenko, deputy commander for combat training, initiated further recruitment of volunteers from Donetsk, Luhansk and other regions of Ukraine into the battalion. Tornado members were soon implicated in murder, violent attacks, abduction, rape and torture and were subsequently indicted for several crimes.
But before they were disbanded by Avakov on June 18, 2015, they were unofficially involved in all kinds of special operations, especially of gathering intelligence, sabotage and surveillance. According to Onishchenko, they also had spied on the Buk when it had moved through Torez and surroundings.
@Wowihay, who founded the local news station Torez.info according to the WHOIS look-up of the website at the time, was – looking at the accounts he followed on twitter – in favour of rightwing extremist militia. He also did an interview with Onishchenko, published on Torez.info on May 13, 2015. News organizations like The Odessa Daily copied this interview.
In a Facebook posting from well-known ultranationalist editor of censor.net and benefactor of extremist militias, Yuri Butusov, remarkable information surfaced. @WowihaY and his crew were not only responsible for the plume pictures after the shot down, but also for the images in Torez:
“Two patriots, Torez locals, took photos of Russian anti-aircraft system BUK at the moment it was passing by Torez and straight after the rocket that shot the Boeing was launched. These photos were received by Vitaly Kropachev, an active member of resistance, who passed them on to Geraschenko. Kropachev also helped to evacuate the photographers.”
Then also Butusov, whom, by the way, was called “a close friend” by Anton Gerashchenko , confirmed that the Torez images were collected by an operation organized by the Interior Ministry (Avakov, Gerashchenko):
“… outstanding work by the agents of the Interior Ministry of Ukraine, who succeeded in making a short videoclip of the Buk transport in Torez”. According to the JIT this video had to be edited vigorously in the interests of the source. This source could well be SBU and/or Tornado.
Minister for the Interior and SBU political boss Arsen Avakov and his adviser Anton Gerashchenko Photo: fort-russ
As the Buk on both Torez imagery and the Donetsk photo – which was published by the JIT on October 13, 2017, and so was never OSINT – seems to be the same one, probably also this last picture was a product of the same operation. [see illustration below]. Probably also the Makiivka video, announced in a BBC documentary by @WowihaY (see part 2, section 2.1), was tied to this surveillance crew. Since the strange sourcing of the Paris Match images has become known, it is not that far-fetched to suspect this video (or parts from it that served as a template for fakery) also was made during a surveillance job.
The Buk in Donetsk (on the left), on the Torez video (in the middle) and on the Torez photo. As the Torez imagery can be linked to a surveillance operation of the Torez/Snizhne unit maybe the same might be said of the Donetsk Buk photo that never was open sourced before the JIT published it. The white circle on the left photo and the red circle on the right photo show socalled “fingerprint markers” that are blocked from view. With these markers the JIT allegedly proved this Buk came from Russia.
In the interview with Anonymous, mentioned earlier, the interviewed person corroborates Onishchenko’s assertions and the conjecture that next to the Torez imagery at least the Makiivka imagery was part of the deal as well:
“By that time, some members of our group had already been forced to leave the occupied territory, as they were wanted by the militants. They became connected with law enforcement authorities, and also keepers of information. [These statements are supported by the 2015 interview with @WowihaY when he talks about his own experiences; HR]”.
“After the “Buk” was photographed in Makiivka, and there was information that it was carried on the route through Zuhres [@3Andryu? See also part 2; HR], we were tensed a little more – some members of our group were in Torez (now Chistyakovo) and could more accurately track everything that happened if the complex would carry on in that direction.”
“And so it happened. The trailer carrying the “Buk” was photographed at the entrance to Torez by our activist. This was a few hours before the tragedy. By then we thought that the Russians would hunt for our “birds”. Then the complex was spotted on the outskirts of Torez towards Snizhne.”
Anonymous claimed the Buk was followed all day after the unit of “activists”, spotters and infowarriors was made aware of a Buk transport from fellows in the Luhansk area:
“On Twitter we saw photos of military equipment which we never saw before in the ATO zone, captured by inhabitants of the Luhansk region. Quickly it was identified as a SAM “Buk”. In principle, even by then the Russians shot down a lot of our “birds”, so we decided that this was strengthening the air defense to consolidate grouping of terrorist troops.”
“We started to track the movement of the complex, to be able to inform the air force that they may be in the affected area of the missile. In fact, the “Buk” was watched for more than a day. Every now and then on the network photos of the anti-aircraft missile system surfaced, and we documented all his movements. [These] “high-lights” were enough to later claim that the “Boeing” was shot down by this “Buk”.”
A few comments have to be made. First, Anonymous relates to photos on Twitter from the Luhansk area. However, they could never have alerted the group to track the Buk for more than a day, as no visual material of the transport had been published before the plane was downed.
Second, “high-lights” – as in some “dots” of isolated information, about which was spoken in part 1 of the blogpost series – were enough to construct a plausible theory, using the assumption that the relation between two points always is a straight line. To explain further, if Object 1 is seen on a picture driving at site A on 12:30 PM and also on a picture at site B on a time a little later, it is reasonable to assume Object 1 traveled straight from A to B in the time between the two pictures. Provided though, and this is crucial, both pictures stem from the same date and the objects on both photos really are the same (and the distance has been traveled within a reliable speed).
Object 1, the truck with a blue striping and a red lowloader, was unique enough to be recognized easily. However, an issue raised about the incredibly high average speed of the Buk movement – about 60 km/h between Donetsk and Torez – that could not be verified by calculations that were done with the help of the movements on the videos (24 km/h for Zuhres, 37 km/h for Makiivka). Main problems were the dates of capture, as these were unknown. Because the visuals never came up before the 17th, it was assumed (prematurely) they also could not originate from a day before the 17th.
However, as also Anonymous claims in his interview, some material already circulated within the unit long before it was disseminated through the cleaning layer of social media. For this reason I wrote a blogpost back in 2015, called “Another Buk, another day”, to show that two points need not be related by a straight line and also other hypotheses were possible, filling in the blanks another way.
Third, as most of the trail evidence – “enough to claim later this Buk shot down the Boeing”, as is said – seems to have arrived from this organization of spotters, infowarriors and militia, not much of it is left to allocate to real “ordinary citizens”. Of course, such centralization of the sourcing is commensurate with the level of absence of information from other channels. And as a rule of thumb, when the span of key players involved becomes smaller, the chance of manipulation behind the screens becomes bigger.
Finally, according to Ukrainians no sorties of jet fighters were planned on the 17th, and it was also confirmed by separatists that there hadn’t been seen any aircraft in the sky until at least mid day. No birds meant no imminent danger for the airforce. Anyway, this information would alarm all official channels, especially after Ukraine had tried to procure the west in their antiterrorist war when on July 14 and 16 two planes had been downed allegedly at high altitude.
So main questions might be how much the military and the government knew about this alleged movement and, if they knew, why they did not do anything about it. In the forementioned press conference by Andry Lysenko he stated they would search and destroy the Buk if found. This happened not to be the case.
Andrey Lysenko explains the Ukrainian position at his press conference on July 17th, 17:00: “Let’s wait and see”.
The contours of the answer to the first question seemed to have emerged from the investigation presented here. If a Buk was there, they knew, as they were in close contact with a tight network of spotters, infowarriors, militia and spies. However, Gerashchenko tried to win credits for his work organizing this network without taking responsability, ending up in a split between vanity and veracity.
3.4 The SBU surveillance network in Torez/Snizhne and surroundings
On July the 1st, 2017, Dutch newsshow Nieuwsuur broadcasted a documentary in which was included a short interview with the advisor for the Ministry of the Interior, Anton Gerashchenko. It seemed he had been more than aware of the monitoring system that could accompany a Buk on its route through the Donbass. The organization about which Anonymous was talking in the interview, was the same as the Kropachev-Gerashchenko-Avakov organization.
From 17:30 the voice-over of reporter Gert-Jan Dennekamp says:
“From the investigation as conducted by Nieuwsuur it has been established that the Ukrainian secret service continuously monitored the entire route. So it is no coincidence that the images appeared on the internet very fast. This way they knew exactly about which kind of weaponry was in the possession of the enemy.”
On 23:40 the video of the Buk moving in Luhansk is shown. The voice-over says: ¨And again [so more than once; HR] an operative of the secret service sees this happening¨.
These wordings would entail that most if not all evidence of the trail was collected and disseminated by a unit tied to the secret service. As the official story went that apart from the Luhansk footage all social media publications originated from ordinary citizens, I asked Dennekamp a few questions by tweet [and here], ie. if he could point out which images more could have originated from the SBU.
Then later the trailer that showed the quote above, was edited – as was the entire documentary. Four seconds were left out. The second line of the Dennekamp quote above (in bold) was cut. Obviously the story about ordinary citizens – corner stone of the narrative that Buk presence was proven by open source intelligence – had to be consistent and maintained.
Of course, this does not imply Dennekamp was part of a scheme to disinform. It does prove, however, that his ability to be cautious and critical was not that strong when it concerned the MH17 case. Apparently he actually believed in the tale of the ordinary citizen OSINT, even when red flags were waved right under his nose.
Top: Screenshot I made of the trailer before I asked questions to Dennekamp.
Bottom: The cut version of 52 seconds after.
From the way Dennekamp had formulated, we might think the secret service only used the social media as a middle layer to obfuscate the real sources behind the (manipulated?) Buk stuff. Gerashchenko also mentioned in the documentary, maybe to gain some credits for his work (min. 17:45), that:
“We already had installed a monitoring system in the streets of Torez in June. And also at locations in the neighborhood.”
Of course the question should come up what had happened with all the Buk imagery that should have been captured by this vast network. Dennekamp explained in a talk with the host of the show (26:00):
“I thought it was remarkable – though in hindsight also obvious; but I hadn’t thought about it that way – that Ukraine was actually keeping an eye on that route. I was told, we were told, that the route actually was monitored directly by the Ukrainian security service with cameras. That system would have been broken, in mid-July, would no longer work because the internet had become bad. But they still had the “spotters”, so they knew what was moving back and forth.”
So this should explain there aren’t a lot more videos of the Buk transport through Torez. This also explains why Gerashchenko knew only from an acquaintance of an acquaintance that “a strange vehicle” was moving in Snizhne, as he told Dennekamp:
“On the 17th somebody phoned me around noon and said that an acquiantance of his, a taxidriver on the roads of Snizhne, had seen a strange vehicle passing by. Canons and tanks had already passed by; those they recognized. But this vehicle was unknown to them.”
On 18:47 he claimed in an interview by telephone for news show “112 Ukraina” he was sure of this because of his Snizhne contact. (See from 12:00).
So your airforce is on full alert as of the 12th, you were able to install an entire realtime continuously working monitoring system behind enemy lines and you commanded a special forces unit of spies, spotters and infowarriors engaged in gathering intelligence. That’s really fine work. However, you have to conclude from an ad-hoc third hand testimony that said a “strange vehicle” passed by, it was Putin’s Buk that was transported. The reader is entitled to raise an eyebrow (or two) now.
3.5 The Ukrainian propagandamachine, manipulations rampant
As claimed above, the impression has been raised that the information about an actual Buk transport in the Donbass on the 17th seems to have been emanating for an important part from a centralized group of sources, tied to Ministry for the Interior. This coalescence of information conduits to some point of origin would make it more plausibe that the various parts that comprise the Buk trail have been manipulated from a central source. In part 4 of the blogpost series I will elaborate further on this.
Anyway, it is clear as it is that Ukrainian officials of this Ministry were implicated in using fake evidence more than once. Yet in May 2018 Russian reporter Arkady Babchenko faked his death in an operation of the Ukrainian secret service, the SBU, “in order to thwart a plot by Moscow to kill him”, as the Guardian wrote.
“Ukrainian officials announced on Tuesday that Babchenko, a veteran war correspondent, had been shot three times in the back as he left his apartment in the capital Kiev to buy bread. His wife discovered him lying in a puddle of blood and Babchenko died in an ambulance on the way to hospital, they said.
Ukraine’s prime minister, Volodymyr Groysman, promptly blamed the Kremlin for Babchenko’s “death” and suggested he had been targeted because of his professional work.”
However, within a few days Babchenko popped up alive and kicking.
Another famous case in which fake social media stuff was used, was the attack by Arsen Avakov, minister for the Interior, on former Odessa governor Mikail Sakaashvili. From this case also a strong indication emerged that the Ukrainian Interior Ministry employed expert(s) capable of making fake videos and photos.
In December 2015 an incident occurred between US darling, former president of Georgia and then governor of Odessa Saakashvili and Avakov, chief of the Ministry for the Interior. Both were accusing each other virulently of being involved in corruption.
Sergey Mastepanov wrote about it in an elaborate study:
“About this time a video appeared on the internet in which Saakashvili is talking with a Russian oligarch, allegedly proving his corruption involving a company in Odessa.(See screengrab below).
Later Saakashvili was telling people on TV that the video was a fake. Saakashvili reiterated that this video was distributed by the Ukrainian Ministry for the Interior, saying: “Do you realize now what sort of fraudsters we are dealing with?”
Not only Avakov, but also his adviser Gerashchenko was implicated in disseminating fake evidence. On August 26, 2014, he peddled a story about a golden special operation with a black side. During this operation a heroic female sniper, Natalia Krasovskaya, would have been killed. (NB: Gruesome picture!).
However, more than a year later, on September 7th, 2015, Natalia could be seen on an image being alive and well, see here.
In the meantime Gerashchenko removed the photos he had posted of her after her presumed death. But what had happened? Had a play with fake actors been staged to boost up a tale of divine glory and heroism?
In 2014 Maidan forces were even not shy to take recourse to serious false flag operations. Of course, most known example is The Maidan Square massacre, Februari 20th, 2014. Several scolars studied the shootings at the Maidan Square, when almost 50 people died, and came to the conclusion that snipers connected to the opposition had launched an attack at protesters and the police to lay down a path for a forced removal of president Yanukovich from office.
See for example a summary of a paper (online) by Ivan Katchanovski, titled ‘The “Snipers’ Massacre” on the Maidan in Ukraine’, a paper, published before the American Political Science Association annual meeting, San Francisco, 3-6 September 2015. The complete report can be downloaded from Academia.edu via this link (account needed)
See also in John Hall, ‘Estonian Foreign Ministry confirms authenticity of leaked phone call’, MailOnLine (5 March 2014, online). (The same account is mentioned in Gordon Hahn, ‘The Ukrainian Revolution’s Neo-Fascist Problem’).
In May 2018 the New York Times published an article under the title “Who killed the protesters?“ a report that they believed was the ultimate proof that it was the Berkut state police unit that had butchered the Maidan Protestants.
The report (see here) was born from a partnership between a private agency (SITU, an architecture company and research lab in Brooklyn), a NGO (Center for Human Rights Science from Pittsburgh) and Ukrainian “volunteers”. It assessed three cases. However, it was immediately apparent their analyses were wrong, as Katchanovski showed in a reply in an article for Consortium News.
The Parashchuk case: From my own investigation into this case that SITU described, the impression emerged that the victim could not have been shot by the Berkut. Ivan Katchanovski confirmed my assessment.
Another false flag operation, which was a provocation to implicate the separatists, has gone into the archives as The Dmytro Yarosh businesscard case
At the time Yarosh was commander of the Right Sektor, a rightwing extremist militia force, operating on the pro Maidan side and also involved as an acting party in the Maidan massacres.
On April 21, 2014, not long after rebels occupied buildings in cities throughout the Donbass, Yarosh’s men attacked a checkpoint in Slavyansk, killing five. Though separatists immediately were accused of launching this attack to foment strife and civil war, Yarosh himself told staunch ultranationalist medium censor.net 2 years later he was behind it.
Citizen investigator Liane Theuer wrote a comment on the MH17 website whathappenedtoflightmh17.com about it:
“On April 20/2014 a checkpoint of the separatists in Bielbasovka, a suburb of Slavyansk, was attacked. Four SUVs approached the checkpoint and suddenly opened fire on the guards. These returned fire and managed to repel the attack. Two cars of the attackers burned down completely. Both had brand new license plates from the Dnepropetrovsk region and a lot of weapons and ammunition loaded. Six people died in the firefight. It was the first battle of the shortly after inflaming civil war.
At the battle site was found the Business Card of Dmytro Yarosh, then the head of the Right Sector. The discovery caused much mockery in Western Media: Many assumed a staging by the Russian secret services. Everyone laughed at this “crude propaganda campaign of the Russians.” But the separatists claimed it was done by the Right Sector.
Soldiers inspecting the site where the gunfight took place.
Now we know for sure that every word of the separatists was true. Dmytro Yarosh personally told censor.net on April 22/2016 that he himself had prepared and executed the attack (a lot of details and names). Actually, we could have known before. On July 21/2014 Andriy Denisenko, Dmytro Yaroshs deputy, posted on Facebook that it really was the Right Sector, with Yarosh at the top, which attacked the checkpoint in Slavjansk.”
Translation Denisenko: “Hardly any of the members of his campaign team could imagine that the politician and presidential candidate Yarosh, practically spitting on his campaign, as a simple soldier risked his life under fire. Bottom line, thanks to the fantasies and fears of Moscow’s propaganda and the manliness of our guys, there is the new national brand “Yarosh’s card”, a first victory over the terrorists. And the only politician who does not makeup for the camera against the backdrop of war landscapes, but really fighting for the unity of Ukraine. Now you know : Yarosh’s Business Card – this is not a myth but the deadly reality for separatists and Putin’s invaders.”
According to (pro)western media outlets there is no such thing as rightwing extremism in the Ukraine, mainly because their political branches show low voter turn-outs – denying the fact that ultranationalism has become mainstream. Also the Ukrainian state apparatus would show, according to western sources, great progress towards freedom and democracy.
In the meantime, the special UN commissioner made an alarming call to the international community about the inadequate legal processes with regard to the killings in post-coup Ukraine. The mass media did not cover it.
Maybe we should accept the fact that the official state apparatus had been infested by very ruthless people, people who might at least have had a hand in constructing fake evidence with respect to the downing of flight MH17, or maybe more.
A most chilling aspect of the work of the small, tightly knit unofficial intelligence unit tied to the Interior Ministry, comprised of SBU spies, extremist militia, spotters and infowarriors, was the statement by Anonymous they also got an eye on flights of aircraft, probably by monitoring web sites like flightradar24.com:
“Immediately one of ours supposed that it was a Boeing, that flew from Amsterdam: “It looks like this is the Kuala Lumpur route.” I always watch the Flight Radar to tell apart civilian and military [planes]. This exact plane always flew at this particular time“.
Actually, on July 15th in hindsight a horrifying tweet appeared, adressed to someone who played an important hub in the loosely connected nationalist Donbass infowarrior network, @HuSnizhne, who also was acquainted to @WowihaY, @rescuero and @parabellum_ua. It said:
“Check out what a daredevil is flying from Amsterdam over ATO zone (15.07.2014 15:48)”.
This was almost exactly 2 days before flight MH17, going from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was hit when it was flying over the Donbass.