‘Everyone shares the blame’: BUK involved in downing MH17 escorted Russian tanks – enquiry

Seven months ago a Malaysia Airlines plane carrying 283 passengers and 15 crew crashed as it was struck by a ground-to-air missile fired from the territory controlled by the self-declared Donetsk people’s republic. All the people on board died, including children.

There have been no ultimate results on the official level yet but non-profit German project correctiv.org has carried out its own journalistic investigation into the incident. Belsat TV correspondent Jeanna Kroemer has interviewed Markus Bensmann, a Correctiv contributor and investigator.

How did you pursue your investigation and what conclusions may be drawn?

We did not use any materials by secret services. Our idea was to collect everything on the subject from open sources and find out at what points versions coicide and differ. At the same time we used the Netherlands‘ interim report. Due to it we managed to define what weapon system was involved. We learnt about BUK and asked ourselves about its tactical significance. Nobody raised the question before. And it has turned out that Russian tanks and a Russian missile system are interrelated.

Everything that we had collected was studied by the best military experts we have. After that we headed to the scene in eastern Ukraine and started checking details. The investigation took us four months. The effort was great, we did many interviews and travelled a lot. In June, 2014 NATO knew that Russian tanks’ escorted by BUK missile systems were moving in the east of Ukraine. They could then warn their air carriers against flying over the war-struck territory. So, passenger airplanes were flying through this air corridor but there was fighting between Ukrainian war planes and air weapon from the territory controlled by separatists.

Together with Open Data organisation we made animation featuting planes which were flying there before and after July, 17. Interestingly, all foreign airplanes stopped flying over this point after the tragedy. Only Russian planes kept crossing this airspace and felt safe although their authorities’ accused Ukrainians of firing on passenger planes. But Ukraine realised it was using passenger planes as ‘human shields’ for war planes.

Is any side to blame for the crash?

The main fault is Russia’s. Putin said that all what is going on in the Russian army is his responsibility. We managed to prove that a Russian missile unit is to blame for shooting. And this is Russia’s responsibility.

But NATO countries also bear responsibility too because they were aware of this territory’s dangerousness. In June they reported the presence of Russian tanks [in the region] but hesitated to call a war a war. They were to have banned their air carriers from flying this route but failed to do so.

Did you have difficulty conducting the investigation? Were there any obstacles?

I chose the right time when separatists wanted foreign journalist to visit villages as they had their elections. But working in a war-torn region is always complicated.

Did any questions remain unanswered?

It was the military automatism that resulted in the Russian side’s shooting down the Malaysian plane. But we still do not know who pressed the button.

Jeanna Kroemer, Berlin


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