This video, shared with us
by one of our readers but originally uploaded to the Russian social network Vkontakte
, appears to show a vehicle, part of the Buk SAM System, moving through the streets of Snezhnoye earlier today.
That video has been geolocated. The conclusion is that it is in the center of Snezhnoye (map) and the vehicle appears to be headed south. This matches a geolocation done by the blog Ukraine at War.
This location is approximately 16 kilometers from the site of today's crash (see our new interactive map of the locations surrounding the crash site). Depending on the missile loaded into the Buk system, the system could engage an aircraft that was at a minimum of between 2 and 4 kilometers away and at a maximum of between 24 and 50 kilometers away that was flying at a maximum altitude of between 11km and 25km. We know that the aircraft was flying at rough 10km high, so if the missile was launched from Snezhnoye, the aircraft would have been in range with even the worst Buk missile equipped.
Associated Press journalists also spotted the Buk SAM system in the town of Snezhnoye (also known as Snizhne) today:
Igor Sutyagin, a research fellow in Russian studies at the Royal United Services Institute, said both Ukrainian and Russian forces have SA-17 missile systems - also known as Buk ground-to-air launcher systems.
Rebels had bragged recently about having acquired Buk systems.
Sutyagin said Russia had supplied separatists with military hardware but had seen no evidence "of the transfer of that type of system from Russia."
Earlier Thusday (sic), AP journalists saw a launcher that looked like a Buk missile system near the eastern town of Snizhne, which is held by the rebels.
In the report above they mention that the rebels were bragging about capturing Buk missiles. On June 29th there were articles published to this effect, but the stories seem to only be carried by Russian state-operated news agencies. The original source for the story appears to be TV Zvezda, the news agency for the Russian Ministry of Defense. It's not clear that the separatists ever captured Buks from the Ukrainian military or whether these stories were a front to explain how the rebels obtained such advance weaponry.
Earlier today we also posted a translation of a phone call leaked by the Ukrainian security services (SBU), reportedly between the separatist military commander Igor Bezler and Vasily Geranin, who is described as a colonel in the Russian Federation's GRU (main military intelligence). In the audio, the men say that the missile was fired from the Chernukhino roadblock, a separatist position between 20 and 24 kilometers north of the crash site, perhaps even less depending on the exact location of the checkpoint (map). Presumably, as the aircraft was traveling west to east, the aircraft would have been even closer to this checkpoint than that distance when it was originally hit. Regardless, 24km is still within the range of the Buk, even if armed with its lowest-capability missile.
At the end of the day, we cannot confirm this audio. We do not know whether the weapon in Snezhnoye was moving toward Chernukhino. What we do know is that any Buk between Chernukhino, Snezhnoye, and nearby Torez, would have been more than capable of knocking out a passenger plane, and Buk missiles were spotted both by residents and by journalists.