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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Ukraine Liveblog Day 156

Publication: Ukraine Liveblogs
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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Pulling The Pieces Together - The Buk Missile Launch Site

As we reported below, both Buzzfeed and The Telegraph have traveled to a field between the town of Pervomais'ke and Snezhnoye (roughly here). They followed the directions, it seems, of a blogger who suggested that the missile may have been launched here. Both Buzzfeed and The Telegraph can't conclusively say that this field is where the missile was launched from, but they both appear to be leaning towards the idea that it is a strong possibility. The discovery of scorch marks and metallic artifacts could be compelling evidence.

This is the picture that led them to the field. It was tweeted soon after MH17 was shot down, and it supposedly shows the smoke trail of a missile, perhaps a Buk, headed towards its target.

MH17+4.jpg

The Ukraine at War blog made an attempt to find out where that picture was taken. What's fascinating is that not only does that theory appear to match up (the area between the blue lines is the camera angle), but it also matches a possible launching site (the red line):

missile+trail+10.jpg

Another interesting observation from Ukraine at War is that in the satellite images released by Google after the crash, one can see strange tracks that do not follow a typical pattern used by a farmer. A geolocated video proves that at one point a Buk was seen moving on the road north of these tracks. Those tracks terminate at a freshly-ploughed corn field (approximately where we have the red marker on the right in the picture below). The tracks do follow a path one might take if they wanted to move south of Snezhnoye while staying away from populated areas. As you can also see from the image on the right, this is suspiciously near where, according to the logic described above, the "missile trail" image showed a missile launch. 

end-of-tracks-620x348.jpg

At the end of the day, we can't confirm that this is the launch site, but available evidence seems to suggest that this is a very good candidate.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Did The Telegraph Find The Missile Launch Site?

The Telegraph has sent reporters to investigate a field near the MH17 crash site from where, as some reports suggested, the missile which shot down MH17 was fired.

The patch of blasted wheat and wildflowers lies just a few miles from the Russian border, 12 miles from the crash site of Malaysia Airlines, and – as the Telegraph discovered – just a few hundred meters from concealed rebel positions...

While the Telegraph cannot vouch for the soundness of the analysis, a visit to the locations suggested found a remote area with clear views in the direction of MH17's flight path, a heavy rebel military presence, and multiple marks across fields and dirt roads that suggested tracked vehicles had been operating in the area.

The area makes a very good match for a potential launch site.

The report also contained this picture which may or may not be an important  piece of evidence:

chrism_jpg_2983581c.jpg

Yesterday The Guardian and Buzzfeed spoke to residents in both Snezhnoye and Torez who confirmed that a Buk was spotted moving through the area on July 17th, the day MH17 was shot down.

Buzzfeed also appears to have confirmed that a picture which reportedly shows the missile launch was taken overlooking a field in the nearby town of Pervomaiske.

The Telegraph, however, is still not entirely convinced that they have found the launch site. Read their investigation here.

The Ukraine at War blog believes that they have geolocated the picture of the alleged launch.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
What We Know, And How We Know What We Know

Early this morning The Interpreter's managing editor was interviewed by the BBC. The heart of the interview was not just what we know about whether a Buk missile system was used by the Russian-backed militia to shoot down MH17, but also how we came to this knowledge.

In the last week many of the revelations about this incident did not come through traditional media or statements from intelligence agencies, but through journalists using non-traditional sources. As Miller explains, however, a tremendous amount of data emerged within just hours of the shooting down of flight MH17, and traditional journalists are now traveling to the area around the crash site to investigate clues that were originally uploaded to social media.

Listen to the interview here:


The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Vostok Battalion Commander Says Separatists Had Buk SAM

Reuters have an exclusive report in which Aleksandr Khodakovsky, the commander of the separatist Vostok battalion, confirms to them in an interview that separatist fighters possessed a Buk SAM system.

"I knew that a BUK came from Luhansk. At the time I was told that a BUK from Luhansk was coming under the flag of the LNR," he said, referring to the Luhansk People’s Republic, the main rebel group operating in Luhansk, one of two rebel provinces along with Donetsk, the province where the crash took place.

"That BUK I know about. I heard about it. I think they sent it back. Because I found out about it at exactly the moment that I found out that this tragedy had taken place. They probably sent it back in order to remove proof of its presence," Khodakovsky told Reuters on Tuesday.

Later in the interview, Khodakovsky commented on the possible origins of the Buk, claiming that although some Ukrainian Buk systems had been captured, they were all non-operational.

Khodakovsky said it was widely known that rebels had obtained BUKs from Ukrainian forces in the past, including three captured at a checkpoint in April and another captured near the airport in Donetsk. He said none of the BUKs captured from Ukrainian forces were operational.

While he said he could not be certain where the BUK system operating on rebel territory at the time of the air crash had come from, he said it may have come from Russia.

"I’m not going to say Russia gave these things or didn’t give them. Russia could have offered this BUK under some entirely local initiative. I want a BUK, and if someone offered me one, I wouldn’t turn it down. But I wouldn’t use it against something that did not threaten me. I would use it only under circumstances when there was an air attack on my positions, to protect people’s lives."

Read the full article here
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
US And NATO Say Russia Still Arming And Training Rebels
The United States and NATO are coming out swinging today, saying that there is significant evidence that Russia has continued to militarily support the rebels even after MH17 was shot down:

Ambassador Pyatt also clarified a somewhat confused and misreported intelligence briefing that took place yesterday. The Ambassador emphatically insisted that in fact there is significant evidence that Russia is arming and supporting the separatists. Below is part of a transcript of an interview between Pyatt and BBC Radio 4's Sarah Montague:

Q: Can you explain what you know about these latest comments from US intelligence officials, because there had been comments immediately after the crash that America would produce evidence of Russia’s involvement. And now they’re saying they don’t have it.

A: No, I think that mischaracterizes the situation, Sara, let me start by saying. We believe that Russia has played a decisive role in this crisis. There are large volumes of heavy armor and artillery, multiple rocket launchers, which we know Russia has moved across the border to support the separatists. We know that Russia exercises massive influence over the separatists. Most of the leaders of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” are Russian citizens, and indeed several are Russian intelligence operatives. We know that there are training camps for the separatists in Russia. It was not a pitchfork or a 1950s AK-47 that brought down Malaysian Flight 17. It was an advanced military rocket system.

Q: No, but as you well know, the suggestion in the days immediately after was that this was one that was sent over from Russia, possibly that same day, and that there was Russian help at the time in the shooting.

A: Well, we certainly know that there were advanced weapons moving across the border from Russia. We also know that there would have been a degree of training that would have needed to be provided to the crew who operated this system. So by no means was yesterday’s briefing meant to suggest that Russia is not responsible for what happened, the tragedy that happened last Thursday. Russia is responsible, and we look now to Russia to deliver the credible international investigation that will establish the facts.

Read the entire transcript here.

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