British investigative journalists group Bellingcat has identified the number of the Buk missile launcher of the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade of the Russian army, which was used to down the Malaysian aircraft flight MH17 in Donetsk region on July 17, 2014.
According to Bellingcat, in its previous report "Origin of the Separatists' Buk", the Bellingcat team was able to determine that a Buk-M1 TELAR (missile launcher) was under control of the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. It could be established that this Buk photographed in eastern Ukraine on July 17 is identical to a Buk missile launcher transported in June 2014 by the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade of the Russian army, based in Kursk.
"This specific Buk from Kursk was marked with a "3", an obscured number in the middle, and a "2" at the end and was therefore named Buk 3x2. There has been much speculation about the missing digit in the middle. This report will attempt to conclusively identify – the world's most in famous Buk by determining its missing middle digit," Bellingcat said in a new report published late on May 3.
Bellingcat experts studied characteristic individual features seen on Buk 3x2, which was part of the Russian June 2014 convoy of the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade from Kursk to the Russian-Ukrainian border. It is possible to identify seven unique characteristics. They are the side skirt profile, wheel type (combination of hollow wheels and spoke wheels), dent in the left side panel, arrangement of cable connections to the missile erector, the white mark on both side skirts, font and exact spacing of digits, and the shape and size of oil/soot deposits by exhaust.
Taken individually, none of the seven identifying characteristics allows a definite identification. However, taken in sum, it becomes clear that Buk 332 is the only logical match for Buk 3×2, the experts concluded.
"We can say with confidence that on 17 July 2014, the Russian Buk TELAR numbered 332 of the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade based in Kursk was filmed and photographed in eastern Ukraine. This specific Buk, previously identified as Buk 3×2, was filmed moving to the center of the launch area estimated by the Dutch Safety Board for the missile that downed MH17," the report reads.
Moreover, the analysis of the road wheels using other imagery shows that the spoke wheels identified on the 'Separatist'-Buk are no longer used by the Ukrainian unit based in the region. In addition, after an exhaustive search, the Bellingcat investigation team has not been able to locate materials depicting a single Ukrainian Buk with an H-2200 railroad transport marking in 2014.
"Therefore, it can be excluded that the 'Separatist'-Buk was captured from the Ukrainian units in eastern Ukraine," the journalist team said.
"The Buk filmed and photographed on 17 and 18 July in the separatist-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine did not originate from a Ukrainian Buk unit based in the region, in particular the 156th Anti-Aircraft Regiment," the report reads.
As reported, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed in eastern Ukraine on July 17, killing all 298 people on board. Most of the victims were Dutch and Malaysian nationals. The casualties also included citizens of Australia, Indonesia, Germany, Belgium, the Philippines, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand.
The Dutch Safety Board published a report on the MH17 crash on October 13, 2015. It says, in particular, that the airliner was shot down by a Buk surface-to-air missile.
Read also: Bellingcat: 20 Russian soldiers involved in downing MH17
In early January 2016, the Bellingcat group said that a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was downed by a Buk missile launcher on July 2014 which originated from Russia's 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade of Kursk.
"… It can be concluded that on July 17, 2014 a Buk missile launcher, originating from the 53rd Brigade near Kursk, Russia, travelled from Donetsk to Snizhne. It was then unloaded and drove under its own power to a field south of Snizhne, where at approximately 4:20 p.m. it launched a surface-to-air missile that hit Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 as it flew over Ukraine. On the morning of July 18, the Buk missile launcher was driven from Luhansk, Ukraine, across the border to Russia," reads the report which summarizes open source investigations into the downing of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) on July 17, 2014 in Ukraine.