Bellingcat @bellingcat Award-winning open source investigation. Want to donate? See here: Jul. 31, 2019 2 min read

Today we published the third episode of our MH17 podcast, "The Murder Weapon", where we talk about how our team traced the Buk missile launcher that downed MH17 back to a Russian air defense brigade based out of Kursk. 

Episode two focused on identifying this Buk missile launcher as the murder weapon for the 298 passengers and crew members on MH17. The new episode shows how we looked for all movements of Buk launchers in the region -- Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, etc -- in the spring/summer of 2014

We looked through every photo and video we could possibly find of Buks in Russia and Ukraine in spring-summer 2014, eventually finding a convoy that went from Kursk to the Russia-Ukraine border from 23 to 25 June -- three weeks before the MH17 downing. 

We found 16 photos and videos of this convoy in its 3-day journey, thanks to normal, everyday Russians who pointed their phones at the convoy as it passed by and uploaded the footage online. We verified each of these videos one-by-one, geolocating them to their exact locations.

There are a handful of visual details that we can identify with the Buk missile launcher that downed MH17 from photos/videos taken in Ukraine-- a railway cargo marking, obscured digits, a very particular combination of spoked and hollow wheels, a tear in the rubber side skirt.

There aren't a whole lot of Buk TELARs on Earth, and even fewer in Ukraine and Russia who could serve as possible matches for the one that downed MH17. You may find a few Buks that have matches for one or two visual details, but all? Only one -- Russian Buk 3x2, from Kursk.

After we were confident that Russian Buk 3x2 (middle digit was painted over) was the same as the one seen in Ukraine, we tried to figure out what the middle digit used to be. Turns out, Russian Buk 332 from Kursk has many of the same features, even including a side panel dent.

There are a few details that don't match 1:1 with Buk 332 (last photographed in 2013) and Buk 3x2 (seen in Ukraine/Russia in June-July 2014), but this is because of wear, tear, and use over the year that we did observe it. Even the cable connections to the missile erector match!

So, where is Buk 332 (also known as 3x2) now? We last saw it in Luhansk, heading towards Russia, missing one missile. It hasn't been seen since, and we haven't found it back on its base in Kursk, unlike other vehicles in the June 2014 convoy, which are safe and sound back home.

Also, thanks to all who have already subscribed to and listened to our podcast. We're now #5 on the iTunes podcast charts. 

You can follow @bellingcat.


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