Fact Checking the Russian Ministry of Defence's July 21st MH17 Press Briefing

On July 21st 2014 the Russian Ministry of Defence gave a press briefing on the downing of MH17. In it they made a number of claims that we hope to fact-check. The full press conference can be found here.

The Detection of a SU-25 on Radar

The Russian MoD claimed

"Russian system of air control detected the Ukrainian Air Force aircraft, purposed Su-25, moving upwards toward to the Malaysian Boeing-777. The distance between aircrafts was 3-5 kilometers.

Su-25 can gain an altitude of 10000 meters for a short time. It is armed with air-to-air missile R-60 able to lock-on and destroy target at a distance of 12 kilometers, and destroy it definitely at a distance of 5 kilometers."

Then showed a video of air traffic control over the area at the time.

The full text of that section can be found here.


I don't get what you mean by "too many assumptions"!
I've just summarized what the Russians said regarding to the article that you've provided


1. too many assumptions
2. I said it is an inconsistency, requiring an explanation, perhaps an error. After the explosion radar went from standby to normal mode explaining superior detection properties.

  1. After the quote you've provided from General Karatpolov It says:"The video of the Rostov Aerial Center of the Joint Air Traffic Management System can corroborate the information."
    So again, they tell us that the video shows a an aircraft moving upwards, and while that video is from the ATC, I conclude that they do mean in fact that radar display footage!
  2. The quote from Makushev says:"The early detection of this aircraft appeared to be quite impossible because the air situation control is usually performed by radars working in a standby mode which detection possibilities at the given distance are over 5000 m altitude"
    So what now?
    First they detect an aircraft climbing (17:19) (Regarding their information, this aircraft should be over 5km).
    Then it disappears from the radar? Then it's supposed to shoot down MH17, and exactly after that it reapperas on the radar, because it somehow got over 5km again (17:21)?
    And you don't see the inconsistency in that?

I think the transcript solves some issues:


  1. General A.V.Kartapolov

He describes the airplanes as follows:

"At that time there were 3 civilian aircrafts:
Flight from Copenhagen to Singapore at 17.17;
Flight from Paris to Taipei at 17.24
Flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Besides it, Russian system of air control detected the Ukrainian Air Force aircraft, purposed Su-25, moving upwards toward to the Malaysian Boeing-777. The distance between aircrafts was 3-5 kilometers."

In the picture, the SU-25 has a time stamp at 17:19 and a speed of 400 km/h.

  1. Lieutenant-General I.Y.Makushev

Provides additional details about the detection of SU-25:

"At 17.21 35 seconds P.M. with the aircraft speed of 200 km/h at the point of the Boeing crash there is a new mark of the aircraft to be seen. The aircraft was steadily monitored by radar stations of Ust-Donetsk and Butirinskoe during 4 minutes period. Air control officer having enquired the characteristics of newly appeared aircraft couldn’t possibly get them because it is in all likelihood that the aircraft had no secondary deduction system amounted on it, which is put typically for military aircraft. The early detection of this aircraft appeared to be quite impossible because the air situation control is usually performed by radars working in a standby mode which detection possibilities at the given distance are over 5000 m altitude."

I would conclude from this

  1. The radar displayed in the video may likely be Rostov and not Ust-Donetsk or Butinskoe which 'monitored' the SU-25 'during 4 minutes period'.

  2. SU-25 was detected by the 'Russian system of air control', meaning not necessarily by the radar displayed.

  3. SU-25 was not detected before because 'the early detection of this aircraft appeared to be quite impossible because the air situation control is usually performed by radars working in a standby mode which detection possibilities at the given distance are over 5000 m altitude.'

  4. The only inconsistency I can see here, are the 2 time stamps given. In the picture SU-25 has a time stamp 17:19. It is inserted in the Rostov (?) radar video at 17:21:35. This may be an error, but it may also take that time until a detection from another station is verified and inserted.


@m.schopp: I got what you said. The climbing aircraft may have been undetectable....but look at the video at 12:50!
The guy says: "Russian means of the Air Traffic Control fixed Ukrainian aircraft climbing to the direction...."
The claim to have detected a Su25 via ATC.....but as I said before, that#s not what the video footage shows us! That#s what I would call a lie.


1. As I said, the climbing airplane may have been undetectable due to physics.If it really was detected after the explosion, the assessment where it came from was then based on logic, not from detection. It simply can't have come from anywhere else without having been detected.

  1. There may be another answer. The Russians have been informed by eyewitnesses or by Dnepopetrovsk air base staff that a SU-25 shot down MH17. However, it was not detectable by their radar and they had no verifiable proof to convince the public. They knew that Kiev and the US were not telling the truth, so they just inserted it, knowing it was the true.

@mvdb22: Yes, I know. Still my point stands: The Russian military guy in the video of the press conference says, that the ATC detected three passenger jets and a Ukrainian climbing aircraft. I repeat: this is not visible on the radar they provided. It would have been easy for them to point that out, it would have been in fact a pretty damn convincing piece of evidence. But they did not have that. On the other hand the "Ukrainian SU-25" appears suddenly near to MH-17 after it#s breaking apart.
I think this alone contradicts the shot down by a fighter jet claim. Unless you claim the Ukrainians have a stealth fighter, that appears only after it's done its job!
In my opinion you don't even have to point out the unplausibility of the other claims, the capabilities of the SU24, the impossible flying maneuvers....
Just ask the SU-25 guys:"Why is there no Fighter jet on the radar?" So far I did not get a single answer....


Rostov radar uses two radar antenna's. I am not sure about the location of those. Power, angle of antenna all affect the range and altitude the radar can detect objects. You will see objects appear after MH17 was shot down. These objects hardly move horizontally. Also the Russians stop the radar recording so we cannot see these objects fly away.
Besides that, a SU-25 is nonsense for severall reasons. Cannon cannot be used at 10km without stalling the aircraft. Damage not similar to 30mm but is shrapnel. R-60 too light to shot down a Boeing 777. R-60 uses rods. No rod damage to be seen. Holes in the roof of the cockpit. Cannot be done by bullets. Both FDR and CVR stop at the same time. Cannot be done by bullets or a R-60.


But the Russinas said during the press conference that the ATC did in fact detect a climbing aircraft, a supposed Su-25.
And what I'm telling you is that they don't back that up with ATC footage


The SU-25 may not have been detected before the shotdown due to physics of the radar.

At a distance of approx. 140 km (?)

  1. The plane has to be above the radar horizon.
  2. The plane has to be above the lowest angle steered by the radar signal.
  3. Very low angles suffer from increased noise and signals maybe rejected.
  4. Two objects require a minimum distance to be resolved as 2 different objects. The radar in the link below would require a separation of about 4 km for separation over this distance.
    If the objects have different sizes, this value should increase. The required minimum distance may also be larger in elevation than in azimuth.


All together may explain, why the SU-25 was only detected after the shotdown.


The Russian story about SU-25 or any other fighteraircraft appearing on radar is silly at best. What you see on Rostov radar is debris. This is confirmed by an air traffic controller. Read a full analyses here http://www.whathappenedtoflightmh17.com/russian-radar-does-not-show-any-...


Here are my thoughts about the claims made by the Russians during this press conference. (I want to point out, that I will focus on the claims regarding a military aircraft because that's a topic I'm familiar with. Please excuse errors in grammar and spelling, as english is not my native language):

  • Russian ATC detected ukrainian SU-25 climbing:
    Where? and HOW? Why does this aircraft show up on the radar data? Why ist there only a (really terrible) made up picture of this military jet (which in fact doesn't even show a su-25, looks more like an American EF-111. Didn't the Russians have a pic of one of their own aircrafts?)? Nonetheless, it was the first thing that came to my mind when I watched this video. Later they do show Radardata form the ATC with the different commercial planes, but they do never proof their claim of an climbing Su25!

  • SU25 can briefly climb up to 10.000 metres:
    Yes briefly. But the technical specs don't allow the SU-25 to reach the height very quickly or perform superior maneuvers in flight....that's why you'd never consider a SU25 to intercept aircrafts. Besides, that max. height is supposed to be withour ordnance.

  • The AA-Missile R60 has a range up to 12km.
    It's more between 8-10 km....which decrease dramatically if the Missile has to gain height!
    (and btw: if MH17 would have been hit by an R60, the pilots would definitely had some time to use their comms....)

  • and now the evry interesting part, the video of the radar data of the Russian ATC:
    The Russian claim that at the moment MH17 lost it's current speed (you see the speed info of the plane in the box, it the number at the bottom (i.e. 898#), a new contact appeared on the radar. The claim this is a military aircraft!

So....the supposed SU25 climbs towards MH17, which is not visible on the radar. Then the SU25 suppossedly fires at MH17 which destroys the Boeing resulting in the abrupt loss of speed. and suddenly the SU25 appears on the radar? And teh pilots had no chance of communicating? (keep in mind, the R60 is an IR-guided missile, which does not target the cockpit section!)

  • The previous detection of the aircraft was impossible, because the radar shows only planes above 5km:

So why did they claim previously that they detected a SU25 climbing towards MH17? Adn are we supposed to believe that the SU25 reached a height above 5km exactly at the time of the destruction of MH17? (keep in mind, that a r60 would have to climb at least 5km to reach the Boeing)

  • The military craft circles over the location and monitoring the situation:

The contact on the radar has NO Information reagrding speed or flight direction, information which the Primary Surveillance radar of the ATC should deliver (you don't need a transponder for this). and why would the military aircraft circle around at that height? that makes no sense at all, especially when pilots of groudn attack aircrafst know how to avoid detetction!

my conclusion is, that the ATC radar detected the fuselage breakign apart in mid-air. Those parts are definitely big neough to show up onn radar but as expected they won't give the radar data about flight path or speed.

Eliot Higgins

This video shows the radar tracking started just after the claimed course change by MH17, and shows MH17 on the same course plotted by the DSB https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QayZ3Z9GSgQ

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Buks Deployed Around the Attack Site

The Russian MoD presented three images claiming to show Ukrainian Buk missile launchers in the area around the date MH17 was shot down.

Eliot Higgins

The new Correct!ve report visited one of the locations in the Buk sat images, and locals said they didn't notice anything like a missile launch https://mh17.correctiv.org/mh17-the-path-of-the-buk/


It is very very unlikely this BUK was moved and placed back in the same spot and position a while later. Especially when looking at the condition of the BUK. Clear evidence of photo shop. Russia forgot about Google Earth,

Eliot Higgins

It certainly seems like it's in exactly the same position.


Ukrainearwar made a detailled post using Google Earth photos showing a BUK did not move at a Donestsk base while Russia did some photoshop to show it moved http://ukraineatwar.blogspot.nl/2014/10/google-earth-shows-russia-used-p...

Eliot Higgins

The Ukrainian SBU released images claiming to show the Russian images were incorrect, which the Russian's claim to debuk here http://eng.mil.ru/en/analytics.htm

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The Ukrainian Ministry of Interior Buk Video was Filmed in Government Controlled Krasnoarmeisk

The Russian MoD claimed the video presented by the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior showing the Buk linked to the downing of MH17 was actually filmed in government controlled Krasnoarmeisk.

Eliot Higgins

Once I get chance I'll start a separate story for the route.


An interesting comment on the BUK in Luhansk on a German forum here. https://www.freitag.de/autoren/gunnar-jeschke/correct-v-korrigiert?seite=4
It states the loader with BUK minus 1 missile was filmed driving Southwards on the road called Nechuya Levits'kohu in Luhansk. This means the truck must have come from the M04. If the truck indeed came from Snizhne or Donetsk it must have crossed the E40 motorway.
The E40 motorway was for sure under control of Kiev because it connected Kiev controlled area north of Luhansk with the airport south of Luhansk. Ukraine withdrew from Luhansk airport around September 1. How likely is it a truck plus BUK crossed the Kiev controlled motorway?

Eliot Higgins

Control can also be a widely defined thing as well, worth exploring though.

Eliot Higgins

The Correct!ve report has this image, which shows the billboard has been damage
The only part of the billboard is where the line of text the Russian's incorrectly quoted was positioned, Corrective said "Yes. When we were at the spot it seemed, that especially this part was deliberate damaged.":


Even the Russians never ever mentioned that the location in Luhansk was actually under control of Kiev. Why would they even bother to deny it was Luhansk.

Eliot Higgins

I've yet to see anyone verify the claims made by the mapping site those claims are made from.


So what about the claim of this website which states Luhansk was under control of Ukraine at July 18 when the truck+BUK was filmed? http://humanrightsinvestigations.org/2014/08/05/mh17-the-lugansk-buk-video/

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Eliot Higgins

This was debunked by Bellingcat in the following posts
The Correct!ve investigation also visited the site in Luhansk were the video was filmed and confirmed it was the correct location

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The Flight Path of MH17

The Russian MoD claimed that MH17 had been diverted from it's flight path, claiming the below image showed the change in course.

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More information on the route is available in the Dutch Safety Board report http://www.onderzoeksraad.nl/uploads/phase-docs/701/b3923acad0ceprem-rap...

Eliot Higgins

The following composite shows the Dutch Safety Board data overlayed with the image produced by the Russian MoD, showing MH17 was flying from a different direction and didn't change course, counter to the Russian MoD's claims https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLKOpZycXnQ

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