Bellingcat @bellingcat Award-winning open source investigation. Want to donate? See here: Jul. 09, 2019 2 min read

We've just published a new report: The Arrest of Vladimir Tsemakh and Its Implications for the MH17 Investigation

We'll recap our findings in this thread. 

Last week, the SBU arrested Vladimir Tsemakh -- a Ukrainian citizen living in Snizhne. If you know much about the MH17 downing, you probably know that Snizhne is the closest town with a sizable population to the MH17 launch site. In 2014, Tsemakh was head of air defense there.

The DNR (Donetsk separatists) claim Tsemakh was indeed an air defense commander, but only in October 2014 -- three months after the MH17 downing. They provided this military ID to prove it. However, while this ID may be real, Tsemakh was still running air defense months earlier

Tsemakh was nice enough to upload photos of himself next to a ZU-23 anti-aircraft cannon in August 2014 -- two months before he "started" his work, per the DNR. The truck in the second picture says "Anti-aircraft missile forces, Snizhne", if you had any doubts.

If you don't believe Tsemakh himself, listen to Igor Girkin (Strelkov), who says that "Borisych" (Tsemakh) was the head of air defense in Snizhne "in July-August 2014). Girkin says he personally talked with Tsemakh a few times in Snizhne.

However, while Tsemakh is a vital witness, he didn't "push the button" -- that was done by Russian servicemen. Tsemakh himself gave an interview in 2015 to a Russian nationalist outlet where he talks about helping to hide the Buk after it downed MH17.

(If you're interested in the fine details of this phonetic aspects of this video for what he said during the censored section, read the article in full. Here's a preview:)

This video was filmed near the MH17 crash site, and Tsemakh even describes pulling out a "young guy" from the Buk after the downing after it came back to Snizhne. This is one of the Russian servicemen who downed MH17. So, you can imagine his role as a witness for the case now.

There's a gap in our knowledge of what happened with the Buk that downed MH17 between the downing (4:20pm) and an intercepted phone call at 9:32pm, when a (Russian) Buk crew member got lost in Snizhne. Tsemakh was apparently around the Buk in Snizhne during this five-hour gap.

(The two people on this frantic call are Leonid "Krot" Kharchenko -- one of the four MH17 suspects named by the JIT a few weeks ago -- and the deceased Eduard "Ryazan" Gilazov. Read our recent investigation for more info on them: )

Back to Tsemakh -- he was even kind enough to provide a glimpse into his personal military diary (!) during that nationalist interview from 2015. It shows an entry from the end of July 2014 about using some air defense cannons. Sometimes we get lucky with our research subjects.

As to how big of a deal Tsemakh will be once the Dutch prosecution around MH17 starts -- here's our conclusion, summing up that it's A Big Deal. The JIT wanted at least one breathing separatist/Russian in the Netherlands who could act as a witness, and they may have gotten one.

(And back to the phonetic-bleep thing -- please take a look if you know any Russian. We may call the Russian translation of this article "Операция «ХУЙ» и другие приключения Цемаха") 

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