Flight MH17, the unanswered questions raised by Russian Authorities

On 18/07/2014, high ranking officers of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation stated the first 10 questions about the attack on Flight MH17. This was the day after the downing of Flight MH17 and in response to the statements by the USA that they were “confident that Flight MH17 was shot down by a missile launched by militia’s which was supplied by the Russian Federation.

  1. Immediately after the tragedy, the Ukrainian authorities, naturally, blamed it on the self-defense forces. What are these accusations based on?
  2. Can Kiev explain in detail how it uses Buk missile launchers in the conflict zone? And why were these systems deployed there in the first place, seeing as the self-defense forces don’t have any planes?
  3. Why are the Ukrainian authorities not doing anything to set up an international commission? When will such a commission begin its work?
  4. Would the Ukrainian Armed Forces be willing to let international investigators see the inventory of their air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles, including those used in SAM launchers?
  5. Will the international commission have access to tracking data from reliable sources regarding the movements of Ukrainian warplanes on the day of the tragedy?
  6. Why did Ukrainian air traffic controllers allow the plane to deviate from the regular route to the north, towards “the anti-terrorist operation zone”?
  7. Why was airspace over the warzone not closed for civilian flights, especially since the area was not entirely covered by radar navigation systems?
  8. How can official Kiev comment on reports in the social media, allegedly by a Spanish air traffic controller who works in Ukraine, that there were two Ukrainian military planes flying alongside the Boeing 777 over Ukrainian territory?
  9. Why did Ukraine’s Security Service start working with the recordings of communications between Ukrainian air traffic controllers and the Boeing crew and with the data storage systems from Ukrainian radars without waiting for international investigators.
  10. What lessons has Ukraine learned from a similar incident in 2001, when a Russian Tu-154 crashed into the Black Sea? Back then, the Ukrainian authorities denied any involvement on the part of Ukraine’s Armed Forces until irrefutable evidence proved official Kiev to be guilty.

3 days later, on 21/07/2014, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation issued 10 more (and partially redundant) questions to Ukraine, and the USA about the attack on Flight MH17:

  1. Why did the MH17 plane leave the international corridor?
  2. Was MH17 leaving the route a navigation mistake or was the crew following instructions by Ukrainian air traffic controllers in Dnepropetrovsk?
  3. Why was a large group of air defense systems deployed to the militia-held area if the self-defense forces have no planes?
  4. Why did Kiev deploy BUK missile systems on the edge of militia-controlled zones directly before the tragedy?
  5. On the day of the crash Kiev intensified Kupol-M1 9S18 radar activity, key BUK system components. Why?
  6. What was a military plane doing on the route intended for civilian flights?
  7. Why was the military jet flying at so close to a passenger plane?
  8. Where did the launcher – from the video circulated by Western media and showing a Buk system being moved allegedly from Ukraine to Russia – come from? As the video was made on the territory controlled by Kiev, where was the launcher being transported?
  9. Where is it right now? Why are some of the missiles missing on the launcher? When was the last time a missile was launched from it?
  10. Why haven’t US officials revealed the evidence supporting claims that the MH17 was shot down by a missile launched by the militia?

These questions, and many more, are the kind of questions every investigator involved in the case of Flight MH17 should ask and pursue obtaining answers and data with the highest possible priority. Let us have a closer look at these questions and the possible answers.


Immediately after the tragedy, the Ukrainian authorities, naturally, blamed it on the self-defense forces. What are these accusations based on?

This question is somewhat rhetorical in an environment in which Ukraine and Russia suffered from blisters as a result of never ending finger pointing over each and every step in the conflict. However, when addressed to the USA, the question is very valid. The statement “we are confident” should be substantiated by data and telemetry and the USA should provide its full and unconditional cooperation in the investigation under UNSC Resolution 2166 which was issued on 21/07/2014. From the moment that The Netherlands was tasked to lead the investigation in to the attack on Flight MH17, obtaining the data behind these statements should have been the highest priority.


 

Can Kiev explain in detail how it uses Buk missile launchers in the conflict zone? And why were these systems deployed there in the first place, seeing as the self-defense forces don’t have any planes?

A regrettable question in for the rest very valid and logical line of questions. In short, would the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation advise not to deploy air defense systems around a conflict zone? If so, the career of the Minister of Defense would must certainly be very short! In addition, as the MoD knows, Ukraine had already stationed air defense systems in the region prior to the conflict, some of which have even been captured by militia’s according to publications by supporters and unconfirmed accounts which claimed to be speaking on behalf of the militia commanders.

Questioning why a military command would deploy air defense systems around a conflict equals questioning carrying an umbrella on a rainy day, which is confirmed by the fact that the Russian defense forces understandably deployed air defense systems at the Russian border with Ukraine although Ukraine did not attack Russian territory from the air.


 Why are the Ukrainian authorities not doing anything to set up an international commission? When will such a commission begin its work?

It took until 20/07/2014 until Ukraine wrote the letter to the UNSC based on which the UNSC Resolution 2166 was drafted. Although not breaching any regulation on this matter, it took 4 days before the first formal statement which was not pointing at Russia was made. Was Ukraine cleaning tracks, checking facts or just completely overwhelmed with the situation?


Would the Ukrainian Armed Forces be willing to let international investigators see the inventory of their air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles, including those used in SAM launchers?

A very important step towards understanding which weapon systems were available, where these were stored and deployed and how much of these were available prior and after the incident. Independent auditors would be able to establish an inventory track based on records, logbooks and inventory. Since Ukraine is stating to be not responsible for the attack on Flight MH17, the least to expect is that Ukraine would not only provide all data at its own initiative but also invite an international team of inspectors to review and audit all available data.

This question does however trigger a counter question. Since the majority of defense systems, including missiles and control systems, have been co-produced between former Soviet States including Ukraine and the Russian Federation, would the MoD be willing to provide all data it has available regarding production and procurement of such systems? In addition, would the MoD provide a team of international investigators details about the Ukrainian air defense systems which were stationed on Crimea and which of these have been handed over to Ukraine and when? It goes without any doubt that any level of detailed information will help the investigation.

As far as the role of The Netherlands goes, requesting and insisting to obtain this information is adequately provisioned by the UNSC Resolution 2166 but there is no sign that this actually happened.


Will the international commission have access to tracking data from reliable sources regarding the movements of Ukrainian warplanes on the day of the tragedy?

Every weapon system and its crew is suspect until proven otherwise and full and unrestricted access to tracking data of military aircraft in the area at the moment of the incident is crucial in investigating their role. We must however also assume that Ukraine is not the only source for this information. The Netherlands is empowered to request this information from other countries of which there is “reason to believe” that they have monitored the region and airspace at the moment of the attack. This includes the USA and Russian Federation. Refusing to provide this information would be a direct breach of UNSC 2166, given that The Netherlands have requested this information.


Why did Ukrainian air traffic controllers allow the plane to deviate from the regular route to the north, towards “the anti-terrorist operation zone”?

This question is duly answered by the preliminary report of the DSB.


Why was airspace over the warzone not closed for civilian flights, especially since the area was not entirely covered by radar navigation systems?

Even when the guilty party has been duly prosecuted over the attack on Flight MH17, if that should ever happen, the responsibility over the tragedy is at least partially with the decision to keep the corridors over the conflict zone open. In my first article on this matter, I have stated a theory on this topic.


 How can official Kiev comment on reports in the social media, allegedly by a Spanish air traffic controller who works in Ukraine, that there were two Ukrainian military planes flying alongside the Boeing 777 over Ukrainian territory?

If correct, the statements by this person would point directly at Ukraine and investigating the authenticity of this persons role and statements are a primary objective in the investigation, or to be more precise, should be a primary objective. There is no information that this person was challenged nor of he actually had the role he claimed to have at the moment of the incident.

On the other hand, when fabricated, oh boy is this finger pointing action according the famous saying that by pointing 1 finger to blame a person, the other fingers point at oneself!


 Why did Ukraine’s Security Service start working with the recordings of communications between Ukrainian air traffic controllers and the Boeing crew and with the data storage systems from Ukrainian radars without waiting for international investigators.

This question is related to statements made by the same person claiming to working for Ukrainian ATC. It is very interesting that the preliminary report of the DSB doesn’t mention any of this information nor does it describe which ATC recordings exactly have been received. Possibly this could be crucial information and therefor important to investigate.


 What lessons has Ukraine learned from a similar incident in 2001, when a Russian Tu-154 crashed into the Black Sea? Back then, the Ukrainian authorities denied any involvement on the part of Ukraine’s Armed Forces until irrefutable evidence proved official Kiev to be guilty.

The parallels between both incidents are difficult to oversee and it is unwise when ignored by the responsible investigators. Other incidents with “accidental downing of commercial aircraft” show the same pattern: deny until undeniable.

Personally, I think that the timing of this statement, less than 24 hours after the incident, makes the statement unnecessary suggestive and by no means contributing to the already very stressful situation.


 

3 days later, on 21/07/2014, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation issued 10 more (and partially redundant) questions to Ukraine, and the USA about the attack on Flight MH17: (*) Redundant questions removed


Why did Kiev deploy BUK missile systems on the edge of militia-controlled zones directly before the tragedy?

The satellite images provided by the Russian Federation are close to public and show air defense systems prior to and during deployment, indicating an actual active deployment on the day before the incident. The questions why this happened is very valid and can only be answered by Kiev. Did the Government of The Netherlands ask this question and is the answer covered by the mutually binding exclusive non disclosure agreement between Ukraine, The Netherlands, Belgium and Australia? Secondly, do satellite images from systems run by the USA provide the same information?


On the day of the crash Kiev intensified Kupol-M1 9S18 radar activity, key BUK system components. Why?

The questions itself, when substantiated by evidence, is very valid and should be investigated. The question is also a confirmation that the Russian Federation has its electronic “eyes and ears” focused on the region which is all the more reason for the Government of The Netherlands in its role of leader of the investigation to request this information. The Russian Federation is bound by the UNSC Resolution 2166 to provide this information. Did the Government of the Netherlands request this information?


What was a military plane doing on the route intended for civilian flights?

Why was the military jet flying at so close to a passenger plane?

When based on statements made in Social Media by the disputed ATC operator, these questions will be voided in case this person turns out to be not authentic and as a result the claims can not be substantiated. More likely is however, that the Russian Federation has electronic surveillance data which provide evidence for these statements and as a result, make this very valid questions. The same applies as stated earlier: did the Government of The Netherlands request the Russian Federation to provide this surveillance data?


Where did the launcher – from the video circulated by Western media and showing a Buk system being moved allegedly from Ukraine to Russia – come from? As the video was made on the territory controlled by Kiev, where was the launcher being transported? Where is it right now? Why are some of the missiles missing on the launcher? When was the last time a missile was launched from it?

In all fairness, it is very difficult to determine the authenticity of these videos on Social Media but when authentic, these videos allegedly show that the missile system is transported from and to territory of the Russian Federation which would make it very difficult for Ukraine to answer these questions. The MoD can rapidly take away any doubts by revealing the previously described information about air defense systems on request of the Government of The Netherlands.


Why haven’t US officials revealed the evidence supporting claims that the MH17 was shot down by a missile launched by the militia?

A question which is now even more valid than it was on 21/07/2014 and the resulting question if the Government of The Netherlands requested this information from the USA?


Most questions are valid and should be among the questions for which the investigators actively search plausible answers and substantiating evidence. Some questions are suggestive and likely a reaction to the unsubstantiated accusations by Ukraine and USA at the address of the Russian Federation.

For the families of the victims, it is heartbreaking that the powers of the USA and Russian Federation are not combined to get to the bottom of this and find the guilty party or parties.

Kind regards,

Pavel

 

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