What do we know about Flight MH17 – separating facts from fiction

The father of a victim of MH17 told me:

I will never get my daughter back but at least I want to know who did this to us!

These are the confirmed facts about Flight MH17:

  1. Flight MH17 departed on 17/07/2014 from Schiphol in the Netherlands on a flight to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia with 15 crewmembers and 283 passengers.
  2. At 13:20:03 the flight recorders stopped recording and the crew stopped responding to the calls from ATC at Ukrainian and Russian side.
  3. Flight MH17 crashed near Torez in Donetsk Oblast, killing all crewmembers and passengers.
  4. Flight MH17 was flying in unrestricted airspace in which 3 other commercial aircrafts where flying at the moment of the incident.
  5. Ukraine, responsible for the investigation according to ICAO rules, delegated the investigation to The Netherlands which is handled by the Dutch Safety Board.
  6. There is a Non-Disclosure-Agreement between the Governments of Ukraine, The Netherlands, Belgium and Australia related to this investigation for which the content is not made public.
  7. United Nations Security Council Resolution 2166 calls for a thorough investigation of the crash, free and unlimited access of the crash site, ceasing of all military actions at and around the crash site and those responsible for the crash to be held to account.
  8. The flight recorders of Flight MH17 have been recovered and analyzed.
  9. According to the latest information, all victims of Flight MH17 have been identified.
  10. Wreckage of Flight MH17 have been partially recovered and transported for investigation to The Netherlands, other parts of the wreckage still remain at or near the crash site.
  11. The Dutch Safety Board published a preliminary report, concluding based on indications that the crash of Flight MH17 was caused by external high energy objects puncturing the fuselage from the outside.
  12. This preliminary report is based on ATC information provided by Ukraine and the Russian Federation without specifying which information was provided.

Almost 10 months after the horrible incident, this is a rather small amount of confirmed facts available to the public and the families of the victims of Flight MH17.

There is of course more but so far not confirmed information about Flight MH17.

The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation provided information during a press conference just days after the incident, that Flight MH17 has been diverted to the north by Kiev ATC and thus putting it directly over the area of conflict. There is no mentioning of this in the report by the DSB and it is unclear if this information and supporting data was provided to the DSB. In the transcript of ATC communication between MH17 and the responsible Ukrainian and Russian ATC operators, there is no indication of this. 3 other commercial aircraft flew in the same corridor at the moment of the incident and it is unclear if they were also diverted to this path, or only MH17 and it is also possible that MH17 was in the default corridor with 3 other commercial aircraft. What is clear, is that the airspace over the conflict zone in which several military aircraft have been brought down in the days before the incident with MH17 has been declared unrestricted despite these incidents.

During the same press conference, there was information shown from Russian radar systems in which the Russian Authorities identified signals which could belong to a fighter jet close to MH17 and several minutes after its crash. “Typical for” and “we recognize this as” is wording which indicates that the Russian authorities were very sure about this. However, none of this is mentioned by the DSB report and it is also unclear of the data behind this event was provided to the DSB.

Prior to this press conference, the USA had already announced to have detected the launch of a Service to Air Missile (SAM) matching the downing of Flight MH17 without providing public evidence of this claim. The Russian Federation challenged the USA during this press conference to provide this information and any other information it may have. The preliminary report by the DSB doesn’t mention receiving such information from either side.

That the USA, just as much as the Russian Federation, has so far not made any evidence and information available to the public and possibly even to the DSB, has according the security analysts a very simple reason: neither side wants to reveal their true capabilities. But we also have to be realistic on this. With a conflict at Russia’s border, it is very naive to believe that Russia would not have its full ELINT capabilities overlooking that conflict or that the USA didn’t do exactly the same.

The USA has demonstrated its technical capabilities of detecting the launch of SAM and the usage of the guidance systems in the many conflicts the USA has been involved in in the past years and there is not a single doubt that Russia has similar capabilities. This leads to the conclusion that both know that a missile was launched or both know there was no missile launched. Is this a clear case of show me yours before I show you mine?

Shortly after the crash of MH17, reports emerged that the Ukrainian SBU confiscated the Kiev ATC tapes, based on posting by a Spanish speaking ATC operator, allegedly working at Kiev ATC. In the same postings, this operator stated that Ukraine shot down MH17 with fighter jets. None of this is mentioned in the DSB report and if these events happened as was claimed, they are covered by the NDA related to the investigation.

In the pictures of the fuselage, many see clear evidence that the board canons of a fighter plane was used to bring down Flight MH17. Although path of impact and the “perfectly round wholes” support this theory, these do not exclude other weapons. According to Air Defense Experts, many SAM and AAM are designed to create a cloud of molten metal at the moment of the explosion of the warhead which cause the same path of impact and “perfectly round wholes”. Some of the conclusions reached by public are based on lack of technical know how and experience in this field, as in the above mentioned example.

Shocking and disrespectful to the victims, are those who create and spread fake information. There was for example a posting on YouTube, claimed to be provided by the Ukrainian Security (SBU) which allegedly had the leader of militia in the area admit shooting down MH17. Besides it is odd that this would be published on YouTube and not carried by any government officials, analyses of the metadata of this posting shows that it was posted days before the crash of MH17.

Another example is the picture which emerged on the internet and allegedly showed a satellite image at the moment that a fighter jet launched an AAM at MH17. Analyzes of this image showed that it was constructed from different pictures and not related to MH17. FAKE! There must be a very sick mind behind such actions.


No matter how hard we try, we can not conclude “who did it and how” without all available information and the NDA with unknown content and reach even makes it likely that we will never have all information and know the answer to the questions. Questions we have, questions the families and friends of the victims have. The misinformation coming from all thinkable channels must be very difficult for those who lost loved ones on Flight MH17.

This mutually binding and exclusive NDA which includes Ukraine will have further reaching impact on the results of the investigation than any technical means and the availability of evidence. Because until proven otherwise, Ukraine is a suspect in the downing of MH17 and killing its crew and passengers.

This NDA and all activities around it, are at least questionable. Including the role of the Dutch Government in signing this NDA prior to starting the investigation and not knowing the outcome. Poor judgement and I fear it puts at risk what the Dutch Government owes the victims and their families: the ability to provide answers!

Kind regards,

Pavel

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