This report presents information regarding the Russian brigade that authors believe provided, and possibly operated, the Buk-M1 missile launcher that downed Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, Censor.NET reports citing Bellingcat website.
"There is no direct evidence indicating if it was Russian or separatist soldiers who operated Buk 3×2 when it was in Ukraine. However, considering the complexity of the Buk-M1 system, it is most likely that the Russian military did not transfer a Buk missile launcher to separatist commanders without some guidance or a Russian crew. In the likely case that the Buk 3×2 did come with a Russian crew, it is almost certain that they were from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade, which was deployed at the border throughout the summer of 2014," the report reads.
The report contains five sections, each covering a different aspect of the 53rd Brigade and its activities in the summer of 2014, Bellingcat authors write.
"The first section, "The 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade," describes the role of the brigade within the Russian military and its structure, including the unit designations of Buk-M1 systems within the brigade.
"The second section, "Mobilization of the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade," provides a detailed account of the deployment of the brigade throughout the summer of 2014. By studying the makeup of the convoy that transported Buk-M1 systems from Kursk, Russia to near the Russia-Ukraine border on June 23-25, we have established that the 2nd Battalion of the 53rd Brigade was responsible for the transport of Buk 3×2. The missile launcher designated Buk 3×2 replaced the 2nd Battalion's missile launcher numbered 222, thus indicating that the officers and soldiers normally responsible for Buk 222 were the most likely candidates to operate its replacement, Buk 3×2. This second section also details another convoy in which equipment from the 1st Battalion was transported in the days following the MH17 disaster.
"The third section, "Soldiers of the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade," details the soldiers within the 53rd Brigade and the information provided by their public postings on social media. The soldiers of the 2nd Battalion provided a wealth of information, including photographs and written notes, describing their time on the Russia-Ukraine border in June and July, 2014. More extensive details are provided regarding the soldiers who were normally responsible for the Buk missile launcher numbered 222, which was replaced by Buk 3×2, which we believe downed MH17. Additional details are provided on soldiers of the 1st and 3rd Battalions in order to demonstrate that they likely had no involvement or knowledge regarding the transfer or operation of Buk 3×2 in Ukraine. The identities of all of these soldiers have been anonymized in this public version of the report, with their names changed and faces blurred, though an uncensored version with their true identities has been provided to the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT).
"The fourth section, "Cadets at the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade," describes a summer cadet training program at the Kursk base of the 53rd Brigade. Information provided by these cadets gives us additional understanding of the structure and operations of the brigade, in addition to ruling out numerous officers from any involvement with the MH17 disaster. The identities of all cadets have been anonymized, like with the soldiers in the previous section.
"The final and most important section, "Commanders of the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade," provides extensive information regarding the leadership structure of the brigade and battalion that provided and possibly operated the likely murder weapon in the downing of MH17. We provide partially anonymized information regarding 14 officers of the 2nd Battalion of the 53rd Brigade, including the commanders of the Buk unit vehicles within the battalion. Sergey Borisovich Muchkaev, the commander of the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade, is closely detailed, along with his superiors, including Aleksey Zolotov of the Air Defense of the 20th Guards Army and Andrey Kokhanov of the Air Defense of the Western Military District. Ultimately, responsibility for the downing of MH17 from a weapon provided and possibly operated by the Russian military lies with the Ministry of Defense and the Supreme Commander of the Russian Armed Forces, President
Vladimir Putin," Bellingcat investigators conclude.
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