Sam Bullard for the Saker Blog

Executive Summary

There are MH17 dots that should be connected but aren’t, possibly because the right questions haven’t been asked. This article examines existing evidence and follows where it leads from the perspective of a bad state actor. The results are unexpected but plausible.

Historical context is essential for understanding MH17, including the US-Russia proxy war, the pre-MH17 fighting at Donbass, past behavior as a predictor of future behavior, the known performance of anti-aircraft weapons against large airliners, and patterns of public disclosure following airline disasters.

This article rejects false beliefs that the downing was accidental, that the Militia or Russia had anything to do with it, and that a Buk missile destroyed MH17. Letting go of false beliefs frees the mind to consider other possibilities.

MH17 crashed in Militia-controlled territory. Because the Militia provided access when conditions were relatively safe, independent researchers probably have more hard evidence than they were intended to have. The downing of MH17 most likely didn’t follow the plan.

To figure out the original plan, put on your machiavellian hat and think like a government (or an oligarch if you prefer) plotting to destroy an airliner and pin the blame on someone else. Your plan will include things to do, things to avoid, what weapons you’ll use to get the job done and what weapons you’ll use either to sow confusion or to fake a Buk missile attack. You decide which weapons were likely used and which were avoided.

The fighting between July 1, 2014 and July 16, 2014 went badly overall for the US and its proxy, Ukraine. They needed a game changer to turn the project around.

The small benefits the US derived from MH17 weren’t worth the cost and risk. What other benefits could they have seized by executing the perfect plan perfectly? The question makes us think about the actual plan and what limited its success.

The evidence points to a plan for MH17 to crash at the Southern Cauldron near the Russian border. Many Ukrainian troops were there. They would have controlled the debris field, not the Militia. MH17 was downed just 3-4 minutes flight time from the TAMAK waypoint, which was on MH17’s flight plan and is located in the Southern Cauldron.

The plan was flawed. The glitch was that Dnipropetrovsk (“Dnipro” in the balance of this article) ATC did not participate fully in the plot. Dnipro ATC promptly relayed to MH17 a request from Rostov ATC to change course from TAMAK to RND. The course change would have missed the Southern Cauldron and headed instead toward a concentration of Militia forces.

MH17 was shot down a few seconds after acknowledging the course change. The US and Ukraine settled for a very reduced set of benefits because of the glitch. Now the Dutch prosecution is caught in a false narrative, forced to pursue a show trial of four men accused of providing a Buk that didn’t exist according to Dutch MIVD intelligence professionals.

Forward: Why me, and why now?

Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. (Genesis 4:8-10, English Standard Version)

Until this day the blood of 298 victims cries from the ground between Rozsypne and Hrabove in the Donetsk Oblast of Ukraine – or in Donetsk People’s Republic, if you prefer. There are many unanswered questions about MH17. The answer to one question is known with certainty. “Does the Lord hear their cries?” Yes, He hears them.

I’m indebted to independent journalists, analysts, historians, bloggers, aviators, soldiers, engineers and other experts. They have shined light into the darkness, dug up facts and added insight. Some of them have walked the fields and village streets where Malaysian Flight MH17 fell. They’ve mostly been ignored, harassed or threatened for their work.

I sit in an arm chair and follow the evidence. I have delayed writing this article for too long. I hoped one of the experts would write an article like this. Then I realized that many of these experts have reputations to uphold. They must resist the temptation to assemble puzzle pieces and write articles that, whether on target or not, can’t be proven.

Articles like this one come from left field. I have no expertise relevant to the investigation of MH17. I have only secondary research skills and an inquiring mind. I am not burdened with defending a reputation. I am willing to write an article about MH17 which could be truth or fiction or some of both. Much MH17 fiction has already been produced and distributed by official sources. My goal for this article is to contribute understanding, not add to the fiction.

The US and JIT countries have done well for themselves using mainly fiction and a megaphone. Likewise Russia has obfuscated, although with less finesse. They all are keeping the truth in a cage.

But for how long? The truth isn’t satellite and radar images, black box data, ATC recordings and other hard evidence that is denied to the public. Those things will merely add details and confirmation to what already is reasonably clear. The truth is the who, what, when, where, why and how of the murder of MH17. Perhaps much of  the truth can be set free by other means. We won’t know if we don’t try. Remaining passive only invites more abuse. I’ve had enough.

Historical context part 1: consequences of ignoring history

Although much has been documented about MH17, not enough effort has been made to show the event in its historical context. The disaster makes less sense when it is considered apart from the flow of the fighting at Donbass between June 20 and July 17. It makes less sense without an understanding of the damage caused by various anti-aircraft weapons.

Past behavior is a powerful predictor of future behavior. Everyone knows what happens when an airline disaster is relatively free of political complications. The investigation is swift and reasonably transparent. It produces reports that provide closure. However, when powerful interests debate what happened, we get lengthy politicized investigations and unsatisfying reports. We get disasters like TWA Flight 800, Itavia Flight 870 and MH17.

The past behavior of anti-aircraft weapons is a predictor of their future performance. We are told that MH17 started disintegrating almost immediately after an attack at 33,000 feet by a single Buk missile. The history of Soviet-made and Russian-made missile strikes on airliners shows that this outcome is not likely.

Good people want to believe that MH17 happened as a result of mistaken identity, a training accident, or a missile that missed its intended target before locking onto MH17. They want to believe that their government and allied governments had nothing to do with it. They stumble over beliefs like these that make them feel good but aren’t true. They want to believe because believing is easier than researching the event’s historical context.

Why do bad things happen to good people? One reason is that good people let bad people get away with murder. In the modern era false flag events should be as useless as buggy whips. Yet they remain a plague. False flags won’t stop until an event like MH17 explodes in the faces of the evil people who planned it, implemented it and kept the truth covered.

Historical context part 2: a strange convergence of narratives

MH17 flew over one of the most closely monitored conflicts on earth. Beyond a doubt what happened to MH17 is known to Ukraine, Russia, the US and several NATO countries. What the global public sees is high stakes political theater.

Early on, points of disagreement between Russians and western authorities included details such as MH17’s flight path, whether or not Ukraine had operational radar at the time, whether or not Ukraine had fighters in the area, and whether or not the Separatists had a functional Buk TELAR launcher.

Now there is a strange convergence between the respective narratives. Both sides agree that MH17 was flying in corridor L980 heading toward waypoint TAMAK. They agree that the strike occurred at about 13:20:03 UTC. Although Russia’s military has never endorsed the Buk theory, major Russian media including RT and Sputnik have accepted it and dispute only the missile type and launch location. This Russian acceptance opens the door for Ukraine to say that the alleged Buk launch was a tragic accident or the work of a rogue nationalist militia unit. Dutch intelligence (MIVD), who is very well informed, said neither Russia nor Ukraine had Buk systems within range, that the Buk TELAR in Militia hands was too damaged electronically to function, that Russia did not train Militia to operate Buk systems and that no Buk crossed the Russian border into Donbass. Ukraine’s Border Guard who was on high alert said no Buk crossed the border. Russia’s Ust-Donetsk radar shows neither a fighter near MH17 nor a missile approaching MH17. And yet we know that there was at least an external attack. Russia, Australia and the Netherlands held secret trilateral consultations regarding MH17 which began in March, 2019 and lasted until Russia withdrew in October, 2020.

Sabers have stopped rattling over MH17. Both sides are actively keeping the global public in the dark. The public has no way to confirm independently the points where the narratives agree. Convergence is not evidence of truth. Convergence means only that both sides are telling the same story. Both sides have a mutual problem, the global public. Not the many who like the darkness, but the few who don’t.

The theory could be correct that hard evidence is being withheld to preserve the peace. Yet non-kinetic fighting (propaganda and economic sanctions) continues. The people of Donbass continue to die. Wars begin with lies, are sustained with lies, and are explained after the fact with lies. The uneasy peace that most of us have is built on lies. Isn’t it infinitely more desirable to have peace built on a foundation of truth, justice and forgiveness?

Historical context part 3: public disclosure of airline disaster information

The ways that airline disasters are publicly disclosed follow patterns that are repetitive and therefore useful. From the way that we’ve received information about MH17 it should be possible to determine the basic nature of the disaster. Mechanical failure? Pilot error? Weather? Dangerous cargo? Criminal behavior? Terrorist attack by a non-state actor? Accidental downing by a state actor? Downing by a state actor due to mistaken identity? Premeditated murder by a state actor? Unclear cause? Combination of causes? Let’s see what the history of airline disaster investigation teaches.

Mechanical failure, pilot error, weather, dangerous cargo: I’ve combined these causes because of the absence of intent to kill, because they often occur concurrently and because the disclosure of information is similar. These causes often result in incidents, not crashes. When the result is a crash the airliner usually does not break up in the air, and black boxes usually are recovered. If the wreckage is found quickly and no human error or negligence is involved, then the investigation proceeds swiftly to a credible report. Suspicion of human error or negligence will make the investigators take more time because they need to be sure. But they won’t compromise the report just because there could be embarrassment or lawsuits. Only when a state actor uses one of these causes as a cover will the investigation drag on and reach a conclusion that fails the sniff test.

Criminal behavior, terrorist attack, mental illness: An example of criminal behavior is Continental Airlines Flight 11 which crashed as a result of a suicide bomber who intended to commit insurance fraud. The bomb succeeded, but the fraud didn’t. Germanwings Flight 9525 is an example of a crash caused by mental illness. Metrojet Flight 9268 is an example of a terrorist attack by a non-state actor, although recent analysis suggests other possibilities. Crashes caused deliberately by non-state actors typically are investigated quickly and accurately. The cause often is known to the public even before the formal report from the investigators. However, state actors can blame foul play on these causes, resulting either in long and unsatisfying investigations or in investigations that are too short and too sweet.

Unknown cause: Some accident investigations begin with an unknown cause. Air France Flight 447 is an example. The flight went down in the Atlantic ocean while flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. Some wreckage and bodies were recovered within 5 days, but it took almost 2 years to recover the black boxes. It took another year for the investigators to follow the evidence trail to mechanical failure combined with human error. These investigations can take a long time before arriving at the causes and producing credible reports. The worst cases are when the crash site location is unknown or difficult to reach. Consider Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370. Foul play looks likely. Whether the bad actor was a state or not remains to be determined.

Shot down by state actor accidentally or due to mistaken identity: An example of an accidental downing was Siberia Airlines Flight 1812 that was shot down by a Ukrainian S-200 missile that was aimed at a drone target. An example of mistaken identity is Ukraine Airlines Flight PS752 which was identified in error as either an enemy drone or a cruise missile. When state actors are involved the investigation may or may no go swiftly, and it may or may not produce satisfying results. For example, the crash of Aeroflot Flight 902 was reported initially as due to a stall or spatial disorientation or a fire in the passenger cabin. Eventually there was an unofficial confirmation that a missile went astray from a nearby air defense training exercise. Ukraine was slow to admit their error in the case of Siberia Airlines Flight 1812. Iran admitted without much delay that they shot down Ukraine Airlines PS752 in error. When there is an accident or mistaken identity, the offending state’s intent was not to kill innocent civilians. The state actor was guilty mainly of making a mistake. The admission may be accompanied with compensation for the victims and, depending on the character of the offending state’s leader, a formal apology. The truth emerges because although the cause is embarrassing, it is not a justification for war.

Premeditated murder by a state actor: The general understanding among nations is that you don’t shoot down another nation’s airliners. That only invites retaliation. Premeditated murder can be the work of an oligarch with access to military resources or a rogue agency or political leadership. From the public’s perspective the results are murdered innocents, an investigation that drags on endlessly, and official reports that fail the sniff test. Itavia Flight 870’s McDonnell Douglas DC-9 jet had the misfortune of looking similar on the outside to Muammar Gadaffi’s plane. That downing happened in June, 1980. The cause remains disputed to this day. Italy’s Palermo Court of Appeal ruled in 2015 (35 years later!) that Flight 870 was destroyed by 2 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles with expanding rod warheads. The UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch said it was a terrorist bombing. So far 13 people associated with the disaster have died under mysterious circumstances. One can quibble and say that Flight 870 was shot down due to mistaken identity. However, the intention of the state actor was murder. The state actor has not confessed and most likely never will.

What kind of disaster was MH17?

MH17 was shot down 6 years ago. I write “shot down” because nobody has made a credible case for mechanical failure, pilot error, meteor strike, lightning strike, exploding cargo, suicide event, etc. That narrows the field to an accidental downing by a state actor, a downing by a state actor due to mistaken identity, or a premeditated murder by a state actor. It is important to answer correctly. To say incorrectly that it was an accident or that MH17 was mistaken for an enemy aircraft lessens the crime and perverts justice. I do not write “shot down” to imply weapon types. Bombs don’t “shoot down” in the literal sense, but they cause murders nevertheless.

The preponderance of evidence points to premeditated murder by a state actor. If it was an error such as an air defense training accident then whoever did it would have admitted it by now. The bad actor would not have the support of other states who withhold hard evidence.

There was no mistaken identity. Dnipro ATC and Rostov ATC were never in doubt about MH17’s identity. Anyone flying a fighter over Donbass knew who he was attacking. Fighter pilots don’t accidentally murder civilians in 4 storey apartment complexes. They don’t accidentally shoot down commercial airliners flying in broad daylight above the cloud cover.

There has been more than enough time to admit an error or mistaken identity if either was the case. Instead of an admission of error we have a multinational cover-up that may last for decades. A lot of hard evidence is withheld. Fake evidence and accusations have been fed to the public from the beginning. Some of the fake evidence was prepared before the attack. The official investigations have been characterized by delays, secret agreements, withholding of hard evidence, unsupported accusations, delayed and minimized Malaysian participation, mostly denied Russian participation, secret trilateral consultations and the avoidance of evidence that would disprove the false narrative. News media have amplified the false narrative.

False audio evidence was spliced together the day before the event. More false evidence was released while the debris of MH17 was smoking on the ground. Because of the eagerness to mislead we can be sure that the downing of MH17 was not due to a training accident. It was not due to a missile that missed its intended target and then locked onto MH17. The false evidence was prepared in advance and released in haste.

To date we have a dead fighter pilot, Capt. Vladislav Voloshin, who allegedly shot himself in the chest with a Makarov that has no serial number. His body, which was potential evidence of a crime, was quickly cremated. In the tradition of murdered people, Voloshin left no suicide note. We also have a disappeared Dnipro aircraft controller named Anna Petrenko. We have a disappeared Carlos Barrios Sánchez who, regardless of his actual occupation, appeared to know too much and tweet too much for his own good. We have allegations that a Sgt. Vyacheslav while assigned to a mortar element of Ukraine’s military unit A1556 witnessed all or a portion of MH17’s downing and captured images with his Apple iPhone 4. Sgt. Vyacheslav mysteriously died from a sniper bullet when he was outside the combat zone. Whatever photos or video he allegedly recorded remain inaccessible. One person was killed and another seriously injured when Vladimir Borisovich Tsemakh was drugged and extracted from his home. An unknown number of witnesses have remained silent because they fear that they could become another “book” in “the library”. And rightfully so considering the high price others have paid because of MH17.

What kind of disaster was MH17? Consider John Kerry’s wild accusations that never were supported by satellite or radar imagery. Consider the confiscation of ATC recordings by Ukraine. Consider the eagerness of the OSCE monitors, FBI and Ukrainians to take the black boxes away from Malaysia’s Col. Sakri. Consider the black box data that likely will never become available for independent analysis. Consider the laughable claims that Ukraine had no fighters flying, no radar working, and even no Buks to launch because they sold them all to Georgia. Consider the manipulated audio recordings, the photos and videos of unknown provenance that lack metadata and even a clear focus. Consider the fortuitous fire on October 29, 2015 at Svatovo, Ukraine that destroyed Buk missiles. Consider the second fortuitous fire on October 9, 2018 at Ichnia, Ukraine that destroyed much of Ukraine’s remaining Buk inventory and all their Buk records. Consider the misleading and seriously incomplete reconstruction. Consider the eye witnesses who saw or heard fighters near MH17 whose testimony has been totally ignored. Consider the contents of JIT documents that have been leaked and are confirmed to be genuine. Consider the numerous requests for MH17-related information that have been denied by the government of the Netherlands. Consider the debris of MH17 kept under covers at Gilze-Rijen Air Base. Consider the secrecy of the agreement that formed the JIT. Consider the secret trilateral consultations about MH17 that involved Russia, the Netherlands and Australia. Consider Ukraine being allowed to investigate itself and to veto any unfavorable public disclosure from the investigation. Consider the evidence of witness tampering. This disturbing list of considerations is far from complete.

Obstruction on such a massive and ongoing multinational scale does not happen when a state actor kills accidentally. It is impossible to categorize the destruction of MH17 as anything other than a premeditated murder by a state actor.

Historical context part 4: war in the Donbass

The plan to shoot down MH17 is better understood in the context of the war at Donbass which started in April, 2014. Donbass Separatists wanted to leave Ukraine and join Russia. The initial sparks of civil unrest led quickly to fighting with losses on both sides.

The Donbass war is a continuation of the proxy war between the US and Russia. During the Cold War the Eastern Bloc countries functioned as a buffer between NATO countries and Russia. Promises made in 1990 that NATO would not expand eastward were broken. The list of NATO countries has grown from 16 in 1990 to 30 today. As NATO expanded eastward, so did missile deployments that threaten Russia. Ukraine is in play. A glance at a map is all you need to see why expansion into Ukraine could be good for NATO and bad for Russia.

Ukraine’s hostility toward Russia could have resulted in Russia losing a deep warm water port at Sevastopol in Crimea. Russia annexed Crimea in March, 2014. The US and EU responded with economic sanctions. Russia was the EU’s third largest trading partner. The sanctions were a greater burden on the EU than on the US. In the first half of July, 2014 the US wanted another round of sanctions, but the EU preferred diplomacy and mediation.

The early months of fighting were characterized by chaos on both sides. The Separatists had shortages of manpower and equipment, and they lacked centralized command and control. Their political ambitions had to adjust when Russia showed no interest in annexing the region. They had no air force and limited defensive weapons for repelling Ukraine’s air power.

Kiev’s government entered the conflict with big advantages in manpower and equipment. Ukraine already had a standing army and an intelligence organization, the SBU. Ukraine was more mechanized than the Separatists. But Ukraine also lacked a unified system of command and control. Its “anti-terrorist operation” included oligarch-financed volunteer units who regarded support of the regular army as optional. Ukraine relied on its mobility and strength in manpower and equipment. They launched offenses which, when successful, were followed by more offenses. Much of their effort was aimed not at taking and holding territory but at killing and driving out the ethnic Russian population. Ukraine underestimated the Militia and failed repeatedly to consolidate and fortify freshly gained territory.

The maps of the fighting in June and July changed rapidly. The war was hard to follow in real time because of the fog of war and because western media in general wasn’t very interested in the fighting. Alternative media filled the information void, sometimes working long hours to translate from original Russian language sources. The fronts weren’t as clearly defined on the ground as they appeared on maps. The situation was fluid.

A pattern of fighting developed that I’ll call cauldron warfare. You may know it as pocket warfare or as encirclement or Kesselschlacht. The pattern would begin with an advance by Ukraine’s mechanized army, utilizing local roads. They would press deep into territory that was previously under Militia “control”. The more they succeeded the farther they extended the thrust. But then the Militia would cut off the route behind the Ukrainian soldiers, trapping them in a pocket called a cauldron. At this point Ukraine’s soldiers needed to break out while surviving on existing supplies. More supplies could be air dropped, but MANPADs made that a risky and inadequate endeavor. The Militia had to keep Ukraine’s soldiers contained in the cauldron, maintain continuous pressure to shrink the cauldron, and prevent supplies from reaching the trapped soldiers. Over time the trapped soldiers were “cooked” in the cauldron, most either to be wounded, killed or captured. A few soldiers might slip away, but large equipment fell into the Militia’s hands. The captured “trophies” would be restored for use against Ukraine’s army and volunteer units.

The mismanaged war was very costly in manpower and equipment to Ukraine. The Militia grew in numbers, equipment, training and coordination. Although Russia did not formally support the Separatists, materials and volunteers crossed the border into the Donbass. By the end of June Ukraine wanted very much to take control of the border and cut the Donbass in half, so that Donetsk and Lugansk could no longer support each other.

Historical context part 5: the fighting between June 20, 2014 and July 16, 2014

A cease-fire went into effect on June 20th. The cease-fire was repeatedly breached with each side accusing the other of violations. On June 22nd Ukraine’s President Poroshenko said that he had a detailed kinetic “Plan B” for regaining control if the cease-fire failed. He called off the cease-fire on June 30.

Poroshenko’s Plan B was a July offensive that began July 1 with attacks on Kramatorsk, Slavyansk and nearby towns and villages. Another Ukrainian offensive extended from the south to seize territory along the Russian border. Ukraine’s territory along the border extended to about Dolzhans’kyi. It looked like Ukraine intended to encircle Donetsk and Lugansk. Slavyansk, which had been a symbol of resistance, fell to Ukraine on July 5. On July 10 there was fighting at a strategic height called Saur Mogila and at the villages of Dmitrovka and Stepanovka. Much fighting continued also at Donetsk and Lugansk, particularly at their airports. Militia withdrew from Kramatorsk, Druzhkovka and Konstantinovka in order to defend Donetsk. The situation looked grim for the Separatists.

On July 7, 2014 Separatists (red color) were nearly encircled by Ukraine’s forces (blue color). Aid from Russia (black color) would be cut off if Ukraine completed the encirclement.

Map source:

Battle plans are seldom reliable. On July 11 a major battle was fought near Lugansk, where a Su-25 was shot down. Much of Ukraine’s 79th Brigade was destroyed near Lugansk, and the militia didn’t say where they obtained the Grad MLRS that were decisive in that battle. Ukraine’s 24th Mechanized Battalion met a similar fate. By July 14 Ukraine’s forces along the southern border – between 3,000 and 5,000 soldiers – were trapped in what was called the Southern Cauldron. Ukraine sent 3 armored columns to resupply them, but the armored columns met stiff resistance. Both sides were claiming victory at the hotly contested airport at Lugansk. Near Lugansk an An-26 transport plane was shot down by the militia probably with a MANPAD. Ukraine claimed, and possibly believed, that a Russian fighter shot down the An-26 with an air-to-air missile. This happened just 3 days before MH17 was destroyed.

On July 15 at 6:30 a.m. local time Ukraine’s aircraft struck a 4 storey apartment complex at Snizhne. The building was demolished, 11 civilians were killed and many more wounded. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry denied that any of its planes were flying sorties at that time. Also on July 15, Ukraine continued to bomb Saur-Mogila and Ilovaisk. Militia destroyed the communications tower at Donetsk airport, which deprived Ukraine of a landmark used for airdropping supplies and ammunition to its forces at the airport. Militia captured and fortified Alexandrovsk, while Ukraine’s army withdrew from a position near Krasnodon and also left Aleksandrovka and attempted to leave Izavarino. Ukraine’s withdrawals were due to heavy losses and supply problems. Militia at the Sverdlovsk area shelled Ukraine’s 72nd Brigade with artillery and mortars. At Karlovka the militia held its ground against forces from Right Sector, Dnepr and Donbass Battalions, and the Cascade unit consisting of Polish mercenaries. Ukraine tried and failed repeatedly to lift the blockade of some elite troops who were surrounded at Lungansk’s airport. The Southern Cauldron was almost completely sealed, and some of Ukraine’s army tried to escape the cauldron in the area of Kozhevnya.

By July 15, 2014 the Militia recaptured territory along the Russian border (green line). The Southern Cauldron was forming but not completely sealed.

Map source:

The morning of July 16 Ukraine had 5 units struggling in the Southern Cauldron: the 79th separate aero-mobile brigade, territorial Battalion Shakhtersk, the 24th separate aero-mobile brigade, Battalion Azov, as well as the 72nd separate Kiev mechanized guard brigade of the Red Banner. The situation inside the Southern Cauldron was chaotic, with everyone looking for a weak spot where they might escape. The Southern Cauldron’s terrain is relatively flat and mostly agricultural, so there was nowhere for large groups to hide. Ukraine’ assault was fruitless at Saur-Mogila. A smaller cauldron was formed near the border at Izavarino. Ukraine’s forces also were encircled near Krasnodon. Nowhere was the fighting going well for Ukraine. On July 16 the Militia captured Marinovka and firmly sealed the Southern Cauldron.

The morning of July 17, 2014 Ukraine had much manpower and equipment trapped in the Southern Cauldron. Map source:

A lot happened between July 1 and July 17. Ukraine used the June 20-30 cease-fire to rebuild and plan an offensive on multiple fronts. The Militia didn’t have enough resources to cover all these fronts, so they made controlled withdrawals from nonessential locations. Ukraine’s forces as usual charged as fast and far as they could, inflicting as much damage as possible on infrastructure and civilian populations. Ukraine didn’t bother to consolidate its gains and didn’t react in time when it was obvious that their forward positions couldn’t be held. Maybe around July 9 or 10 the Militia acquired Grad MLRS systems powerful enough to wipe out entire armored columns. The tide clearly had turned by July 11. Ukraine suffered massive losses of manpower and equipment, and would surely lose more soon at the Southern Cauldron. Ukraine had failed again to provoke Russia into a direct military intervention. Ukraine also failed to convince the world that something must be done to stop a nonexistent Russian invasion. The world slept though much of this fighting, and today seems unaware that the war continues to smolder.

Means, motive and opportunity

Even arm chair detectives know that to narrow the list of suspects in a crime you should focus on those who have the means, motive and opportunity to commit the crime. Let’s see how Russia, the Militia, the US and Ukraine look based on this reliable test.

Russia apparently decided to avoid war and to reveal only enough information to cast doubt upon the accusations against them. The result so far has been the release of some satellite images, Ust-Donest radar data, declassified specifications of 9M38 and 9M38M1 rockets, declassified Buk manufacturing records and data from a field experiment to analyze a Buk’s impact on the forward cabin of a decommissioned IL-86. Russia is rightly accused of holding back evidence. But the countries making accusations hope that Russia won’t release everything they have. The accusing countries are thankful that Russia’s media have enabled Ukraine to say eventually that their army or a volunteer unit made a tragic mistake.

What we know about Russia is enough. Russia had nothing to gain from downing MH17. Russia also lacked the opportunity according to Dutch intelligence (MIVD) who has access to US and NATO intelligence. MIVD wrote that Russia had no Buk missile systems within range. Russia scores only 1 for 3. They possessed the means, but they didn’t have the motive and the opportunity.

The MIVD also wrote that destroyed electronics in the Militia’s captured Buk made it inoperable. Ukraine’s officials also said that the Militia’s captured Buk was inoperable, but they contradicted themselves later. Ukraine’s Border Guard said that a Buk TELAR could not have crossed Russia’s border – twice – without being detected by them. Ukraine at that time was very eager to prove that Russia was invading. The Border Guard was on high alert. The MIVD also issued a report on the day MH17 was shot down that they could find no evidence that the Militia had powerful anti-aircraft systems. The MIVD found no evidence that the Militia received training from Russia to operate a Buk. Separatist civilians and Militia were being attacked from the air, so they were motivated to shoot down Ukraine’s fighters, transports and helicopters. But they didn’t have the means or the know-how to destroy targets at medium and high altitudes. Like Russia, the Militia score 1 for 3. The Militia was motivated but lacked the means and opportunity.

Combined the Militia and Russia score only 2 for 3. Neither had the opportunity.

On July 17 the Militia and Russia were in a relatively good position. Some territory was lost, but lives were preserved. The Militia became more numerous, better equipped, more concentrated and unified in command. A few leaders were purged because of their back channel discussions with Kiev about surrendering. Donbass Separatists were hit with Ukraine’s best shot, and then Donbass Militia landed powerful counter punches. Although they lacked the strength to take the battle to Kiev, they had cauldrons to “cook”, trophies to refurbish, and local territorial goals within reach.

On July 17 the US and Ukraine needed a game changer badly. In addition to the losses described above, the war wasn’t popular in western Ukraine. The US and Ukraine needed to delay and blunt the Militia offensive that could follow their successes. The EU’s support for sanctions still sagged. Russia gave NATO no grounds to intervene.

Add it up. The US and Ukraine alliance score 3 for 3. They were motivated. They had the opportunity because the air space was still open above 32,000 feet. They had the means. Granted, the MIVD said Ukraine had no Buk systems within range. But the MIVD did not say that Ukraine lacked fighters that could get the job done air-to-air. Numerous witnesses also reported the presence of one or more fighters at the time MH17 was shot down.

The planning to destroy MH17 was underway when anyone could see the totality of Ukraine’s defeat in this round of fighting. Much was at stake, and there was much to be gained if the world could be convinced that the Militia and Russia had to be stopped.

At stake was the Donbass with its people, industry, rich farm land, coal and potential fracking wealth. Its location is a very brief missile flight to many Russian targets.

It is likely that planning was underway months before the event and driven by political motivations. The faked photo, video and audio “evidence” point not to the guilt of the Militia or Russia but to the premeditation of other state actors.

Hard facts in the public domain

The debris of MH17 does not deceive. Pictures of the debris entered the public domain before the Ukrainian army could shell the crash site, before the DSB finally retrieved barely half of the wreckage and before the DSB erected a misleading partial reconstruction.

The distribution of the debris also is in the public domain. We know the GPS coordinates where many pieces fell. We know the order in which the debris fell, starting from the northwest of Petropavlovka and ending south of Grabovo (Hrabove). Hint: If you want to know about the attack, then start where the debris field started.

We’ve been told that MH17 was torn open almost instantly. We saw in the images from the Ust-Donest radar station that within one 10 second sweep of the radar MH17 went from controlled flight to three primary returns. We’ve been given the GPS coordinates of the alleged last FDR position. But we’ve seen debris over 3 km north-northwest of the alleged position that, due to their weight and aerodynamic properties, were not carried that far by the wind and did not defy the Boeing’s forward momentum.

The damage to individual pieces and the distribution of wreckage point clearly to destruction by means that haven’t been officially disclosed. The hard evidence points to a sophisticated attack. It does not look like it was exclusively the work of a second rate military power using Soviet era weapons. Especially not when seen in the context of the official mismanagement of information following the event.

We know for a fact that multiple governments are withholding hard evidence. We know for a fact that the black boxes survived, and that their contents are not independently verifiable.

It is likely that what we’ve known from the beginning is more than we were intended to know. There probably was a glitch in the plot to destroy MH17. We keep asking what happened when we could learn much by asking what went wrong.

How to get away with mass murder and capitalize on it

To figure out what likely happened, imagine you’re a state actor who wants to destroy a large airliner and pin the blame on an enemy. How do you pull it off? The answers to this question will lead you to a list of dos and don’ts:

1. Do kill it fast. The crew must make no distress call. The black boxes must stop recording.

2. Do destroy it utterly. There must be no survivors.

3. Do kill it out of sight.

4. Do kill it for sure. Use weapons that definitely will work exactly when, where and how you wish. Use multiple weapons as needed.

5. Don’t attack from the ground regardless of your cover story. People on the ground must not see the actual weapon. This consideration alone rules out a Buk missile which can be heard from a distance of 10 km and produces a thick white smoke trail that is visible from 15 km and lingers for several minutes.

6. Do sell it. If you want to accuse an enemy of shooting it down with a Buk missile then “missile damage” must be seen. The launcher must be seen. Phone taps must be heard. What the public sees and hears doesn’t have to be real.

7. Do control the crash site. Ideally you will down the plane over water. If you must destroy it over land, then the last thing you want is for your enemy’s people to have access to the debris, bodies and black boxes. The destruction of MH17 broke this rule, which indicates that something went wrong.

8. Do prepare in advance incriminating false evidence that your enemy was responsible. The official narrative about what happened is all yours to establish, maintain and dominate.

9. Do plan secretly. The various actors in the plan must know only their tasks. The less they know about the big picture the better.

10. Do anticipate what can go wrong, and make contingency plans. In the case of MH17 something went wrong that was not anticipated.

11. Do control the hard evidence. The public must know only how horrific and despicable the murder was. Allow no direct access to the debris, bodies, high resolution photographs, black box data, autopsy data, radar and satellite data, etc. Reveal only what helps sell your story.

12. Do control the media. The media focus must remain on emotions and on your fake evidence, not on actual hard evidence. Your media assets must either ignore or ridicule any scenario other than your “official” scenario.

13. Do keep the enemy and interested third parties off balance after the fact. Wear them out with an endless stream of false evidence and accusations for them to process. Every rabbit hole you dig reinforces your narrative while draining the energy of independent investigators.

14. Do tie off loose ends. Bit players who know too much are a threat. Better for them to die of an illness, have a tragic accident, commit suicide or disappear.

15. Do clean up after yourself. Destroy documents. Make sure no bread crumbs lead to you.

16. Do scream bloody murder! Insist on a confession from the enemy. Heap punishment on them. Use the event to move the uninvolved and undecided to your side of the conflict.

17. Do implement a strict double standard. Cooked up evidence, social media and unfounded accusations are perfectly legitimate for you and your allies. But hold your enemies to a higher standard. Make them show hard evidence. Even then accept only evidence that you can use to support the predetermined story. Ignore the rest or find fault with it or its source.

18. Do control the investigation either directly or by friendly government proxies. Controlling the investigation is the reason why you will get away with the murder. You “own” the investigation now and forever. You control now and forever the outcomes of any criminal or civil proceedings. You decide what physical evidence will be stressed, ignored or hidden. You decide whose voice will be heard, not heard, downplayed or silenced. You decide whether the investigation is completed in weeks or drags on for years.

19. Do end the investigation when you have obtained the desired results. You must rule that every appeal to re-open the investigation is without merit no matter who makes the appeal or what grounds for an appeal they cite.

You get the idea. It isn’t necessary to execute the plan perfectly. It is okay for your story to smell fishy to a few keen noses. But don’t give up enough pieces for anyone assemble the puzzle. Doubters will know that your story doesn’t pass the sniff test, but they can’t do anything about it. You can dismiss them as false flag conspiracy theorists with ulterior motives. You have the megaphone. Use it!

Historical context part 6: the performance of anti-aircraft weapons against airliners

Continue to think like a government wishing to destroy an airliner and pin the blame on your enemy. Multiple weapons are available. You don’t have to limit yourself to one type of weapon. What will you use? You may choose one or more weapons to deliver the fatal blow and other weapons either to sell your story or to sow confusion as to what happened. If you’re a state actor then you have professionals who can make the selections for you.

You’re not a state actor. Your best option is to review aviation history, especially commercial aviation disasters that were caused by governments, terrorists and criminals. I’ve done the work. I reviewed reports about 32 jet airliner disasters dating back to 1962. Some disasters such as Itavia Flight 870 and MH17 remain controversial. However, in most disasters the type of anti-aircraft weapon is identified and the inflicted damage is known.

Use the following summaries to choose your weapons. No pressure. The following summaries won’t make anyone a weapons expert. It doesn’t matter if your selections don’t match what the real bad guys chose. The point of the exercise is seeing which weapons best satisfy the list above of dos and don’ts. I can’t stress too much that this task should be approached with an open mind. It is true that evil is stupid and ultimately self-destructive. However, in the short run we must never underestimate what evil minds can invent.

Autocannon: The history of autocannon used against commercial aircraft is thin. The only incident I found was Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114 (LN114) which due to a sandstorm and a faulty compass entered airspace above the Israeli-occupied Sinai Peninsula. The airliner went down intact but burning after being shot at about 5,000 feet altitude with 20 mm autocannon which struck the starboard wing root. The B727-224 crash landed in the desert among sand dunes. There were 5 survivors including the copilot. This downing caused a heated international debate and conflicting reports. The details above are based on a source who cited ICAO Working Paper C-WP/5764.

The 30 mm autocannon was highly effective against heavy WWII bombers like the B-17 and B-24. A few rounds could destroy a bomber. A single round could destroy a fighter. Modern autocannon have greater accuracy, higher muzzle velocity, and a higher rate of fire.

30 mm rounds deliver 3 to 4 times the high explosive incendiary (HEI) payload of 23 mm rounds. The big payload makes 30 mm HEI round very effective against large aircraft. A single 30 mm HEI round weighs 390 grams (13.75 ounces) and exits the muzzle at 890 meters per second (2,900 feet per second). HEI rounds deliver both kinetic and chemical energy. They penetrate and then explode inside the cabin in a grenade-like manner, sending irregular-shaped fragments in a cone-shaped pattern to enlarge the damage area. They produce blast pressure from 48.5 grams of high explosive incendiary mix to damage the aircraft’s structure from the inside. Just 3 to 5 rounds can destroy a large aircraft. An autocannon that fires 1,500 or 3,000 rounds per minute can devastate an airliner in a split second. You can ensure accurate fire with a laser range finder or laser sight. A large airliner making no effort to evade is easily and quickly destroyed. Nobody will survive. You can manipulate the damage pattern by alternating high explosive and armor piercing rounds.

The rounds fired by an autocannon are larger than the strike elements from a missile’s fragmentation warhead. The same fighter can have 23 mm and 30 mm guns. The damage to the airliner’s skin will vary with the guns selected, the mix of rounds you use and with how and where the rounds strike. The general public knows very little about damage patterns inflicted by missiles or autocannon. Almost everyone will believe whatever the experts say. Given cloud cover the autocannon will work unseen by people at ground level.

MANPAD: There have been 10 airliner downings involving Man-Portable Air Defense (MANPAD) missiles. In every successful MANPAD attack the plane has gone down intact. In 3 of the 10 attacks the plane landed safely. MANPADs are useless against aircraft flying at 33,000 feet due to a lack of range. Take them off your list along with all other ground-based short range missile systems.

Air-to-air missile: This missile type can seek and strike a large airliner with ease. However, air-to-air missiles usually are made for smaller targets such as fighters and helicopters. There are only 2 undisputed examples of air-to-air missiles striking commercial airliners.

Korean Air Lines Flight 902 made an emergency landing on a frozen lake after a strike by a R-60 missile. The missile caused rapid (not explosive) decompression, killed two passengers and wounded several others.

Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was struck at 35,000 feet by two K-8 air-to-air missiles, striking about 2 seconds apart. Each K-8 missile had a 40 kg fragmentation warhead. The missile strikes caused rapid (but not explosive) decompression and caused damage that limited the crew’s control of the tail. The black boxes continued to work for 104 seconds after the strikes. The plane remained intact and flew under limited control for about 10 minutes. Then control was lost resulting in the Boeing 747 exceeding its design limits, breaking up in the air and crashing into the ocean. All 269 persons on board died instantly of blunt trauma. The downing was highly controversial, but the above facts are not challenged.

No air-to-air missile has ever caused a large airliner to disintegrate within seconds . An air-to-air missile with a fragmentation warhead and cube-shaped strike elements could make a pattern of damage that resembles Buk missile damage. Given cloud cover an air-to-air missile attack will not be seen from the ground.

If you want an air-to-air missile to imitate Buk damage then the missile ideally should have a similar homing system, fusing to detonate the warhead close to the airliner, and a fragmentation warhead with preformed strike elements similar in size and shape to strike elements in a Buk warhead. Not every air-to-air missile is mechanically and electronically compatible with every fighter. As a state actor you have access to multiple types of both fighters and air-to-air missiles. You also have allies and suppliers who can expand your options. The investigators and media will sell the Buk cover story to a public who is motivated to believe you.

Surface-to-air missile (mid range and up): There are 4 clear examples of large airliners struck by powerful surface-to-air missiles. All resulted in crashes with loss of all life.

Only 1 of the 4 strikes resulted in disintegration in the air. That was Iran Air Flight 655 flying at 13,500 feet when it was struck by two US-made SM-2 Block II surface-to-air missiles. The missiles struck 1 second apart. Each missile had a Mk 15 high explosive fragmentation warhead weighing 115 kg. The plane disintegrated immediately in the air. The debris landed in water. Note that 2 warheads weighing 115 kg each produce a 230 kg combined punch, more than 3 times that of a single Buk missile with a 70 kg high explosive fragmentation warhead. Also, the SM-2 Block II missile was made for navy ships only. It was not exported to Ukraine.

Aeroflot Flight 902 remained intact in the air after a strike caused by an air defense training mission that went bad in 1962. The exact missile type is unknown to me. The accident predated the S-200. The likely surface-to-air missile system was either a S-75 Dvina or a S-125 Neva/Pechora. The missiles employed by these systems had fragmentation warheads. The warhead weight would have been 60, 70 or 200 kg, depending on the exact missile. Before the flight crashed the copilot made an incoherent emergency call with unusual noise in the background.

Siberia Airlines Flight 1812 was destroyed by an S-200 missile due to a Ukrainian training exercise that went bad. The missile had a 217 kg high explosive fragmentation warhead. The strike was not instantly fatal. The pilot’s last words were, “Where are we hit?” The Tu-154 went down intact. Experts believe the people onboard were killed by the plane’s impact with the Black Sea. Ukraine initially denied but later admitted their error. It was an error. The S-200’s missile is about twice as long as a Buk missile, ten times as heavy as a Buk missile and has a warhead that is over three times as heavy as a Buk warhead. The S-200 was designed to counter large targets such as the B-58 bomber and the U2 spy plane. Even so, it did not shred the Tu-154 which was cruising at 36,000 feet at 850 km/h.

Recently Ukraine Airlines Flight PS752 went down in flames but intact after being struck by two Tor M1 missiles. The missiles had 15 kg fragmentation warheads. This downing happened predawn in a populous area near Tehran. Very soon after the event, videos went online of PS752 being struck by the missiles. The cause of the crash was plain to see even if you lived on the other side of the world. Iran admitted the error within a few days. It was an error. Note two key differences between PS752 and MH17. PS752 really was attacked by surface-to-air missiles. It really was an accidental downing. There is no way to hide the use of a surface-to-air missile in a populous area. The 9M330 missiles fired by the Tor M1 system are only half the size of a Buk 9M38 missile. It was dark outside at the time of the strikes. Even so the missiles were seen globally.

Surface-to-air missiles are accurate and deadly. However, Soviet and Russian versions don’t have a history of shredding airliners. If a Soviet or Russian missile causes no major fire at high altitude and if the fall doesn’t exceed the plane’s design limits, then the plane likely will crash intact. Where it will crash is anyone’s guess. There is no assurance that black boxes will stop immediately or that the crew will be killed instantly.

Of all the anti-aircraft weapon choices for state actors, surface-to-air missiles are by far the least stealthy. For example, a Buk missile is large, heavy, fast, extremely loud and makes a thick white smoke trail that lingers and points back toward the launch site. You wouldn’t actually use a Buk for a false flag attack unless you’re sure you can deceive 100% of thousands of people that your enemy launched it. The odds of pulling that off during daylight hours are practically zero.

The lack of stealth presents a reverse problem. The only way you can pin the blame on an enemy who has no air force is to claim convincingly that they launched a powerful surface-to-air missile. How can you create the illusion that this happened in an afternoon when there are thousands of people outdoors who should see the missile but don’t, should see the smoke trail but don’t, should hear the powerful rocket engine but don’t, should take pictures and videos but don’t? How can you create the illusion when there is no satellite or radar data showing your enemy’s phantom surface-to-air missile approaching the airliner? One must be arrogant, stupid or a state actor to even consider selling the story that a phantom Buk missile all by itself caused Flight MH17 to disintegrate within seconds.

As a state actor you can stifle “incorrect” voices while amplifying the voices of friendly governments, investigators and witnesses who support your story. Ownership of the narrative matters more than the hard facts, provided that you also own enough of the hard facts and keep them out of sight.

Bomb: Bombs have proven to be the most effective means of destroying a large airliner swiftly, with the loss of all life on board, and often with nearly immediate interruption of black box recordings. Out of 11 disasters clearly caused by a bomb, 10 resulted in aircraft disintegration in air. A bomb in the forward cargo bay will kill power to the black boxes and swiftly cause the forward section of the fuselage to tear off at the weakest structural point. A bomb placed near the rear will cause the tail to separate.

Only Daallo Airlines Flight 159 landed safely after a terrorist bomber killed himself only; Flight 159 was not at cruising speed and altitude when the bomb punched a large hole in its fuselage.

Airliners at cruising speed and altitude with pressurized cabins have practically no chance of surviving or making a distress call. The list of flights utterly destroyed by bombs includes Continental Airlines Flight 11, JAT Flight 367, TWA Flight 841, Air India Flight 182, Pan Am Flight 103, UTA Flight 772, Avianca Flight 203, Siberia Airlines Flight 1047, Volga-AviaExpress Flight 1353 and Metrojet Flight 9268.

Missiles are less capable of making a kill characterized by immediate structural failure. Missiles are designed to explode near aircraft, not inside aircraft. Airliners are built to withstand external stresses such as air resistance and high speed strikes by large birds.

At cruising altitude the skin of an airliner’s fuselage is already under tension due to its internal pressurization system. Airliners are not built to contain the additional intense pressure caused by a bomb. If you want to tear apart an aircraft swiftly and surely then do it from the inside. The external weapon that may produce bomb-like results is a 30 mm autocannon loaded with HEI rounds that explode inside the fuselage.

Bombs are easy for state actors to make and conceal. There are ways to deal with airport security. The threat of bombs is the reason why air travelers are constantly warned to keep an eye on their luggage and to refuse to accept anything from a stranger. Explosive residue can linger even when exposed to the elements. Remember you will control the investigation. Most people will believe official investigators who say no residue was found or that it was found but was due to an exercise for training bomb sniffing dogs. Most people will believe official autopsies that report deaths by other means.

You can add evidence of an external attack to a target that is large and defenseless. Tell everyone that a surface-to-air missile’s strike elements and shock wave, combined with explosive decompression and natural forces tore apart the airliner almost instantly. Nearly everyone will believe you. Call anyone who says fighters did the job a disinformation agent, and call anyone a lunatic who suggests the kill weapon was a bomb.

The state actor who planned the destruction of MH17 did so with a clear understanding of what various weapons can do to airliners. They would not have based their selections on a hope for a lucky shot. Hope and luck are for little people. State actors go with a sure thing. Now try to forget for a minute everything you have believed about MH17. Decide how you would murder a high flying airliner. Decide how you would pin the blame on an enemy who has MANPADs, no air force, and no powerful ground to air missile systems.

Historical context part 6: who benefited, and in what ways?

The downing of MH17 produced no benefits for Russia or the Militia. To the contrary, the event put a harsh global spotlight on them. The Separatists’ civilian and military leaders were already hard pressed just to fight off Ukraine’s army, provide for numerous displaced civilians, repair infrastructure and provide health care for many wounded by the intense fighting. The last thing they needed was to deal with the bodies and wreckage of a large airliner scattered over a 50 sq. km. location close to Ukrainian artillery positions. The last thing Russia needed was more sanctions and wild headlines about “Putin’s Missile”.

Ukraine has very little to show for the event. They never managed to seal the border to cut off support from Russia. They never split the Donbass in half or captured a major city. Their economy continued to suffer. They received global sympathy for a while which may have helped them acquire some loans and military aid. Although they continue to rant about it, Crimea will not be returned. The Donbass remains independent, vigilant, militant and beyond the reach of outsiders who would extract its wealth. Ukraine probably knows that if intense fighting resumes then the outcome will not be another Minsk agreement. Ukraine remains in limbo, estranged from Russia and also outside of NATO and the EU. New Russian pipelines bypass them. Ukraine is saddled with a false flag narrative to maintain and JIT partners who demand dedicated investigators and help finding and persuading witnesses to testify in a show trial. Ukraine’s people got what proxies and colonies of the US often get: nothing. Actually less than nothing considering its poor post-Euromaiden economy and shrinking working age population.

By the end of July, 2014 the United States got an increase of anti-Russian sanctions imposed by the previously reluctant EU. More sanctions were added between then and June, 2015 by Canada, Japan, Australia, Norway, Switzerland, the United States, and the EU (again). The sanctions remain in place. It is difficult to assess which of these sanction increases would have occurred anyway or how long they would have lasted. Bulgaria and the EU raised opposition to the South Stream Pipeline which was under construction, so Russia had to abandon the project.

Wars are fraught with uncertainty, and this is true of economic warfare. There can be counter-sanctions and unintended consequences. Economic sanctions are painful in the short run. In the long run the sanctioned country becomes more self sufficient, develops new trading alliances and builds monetary independence. Russia has done all of these things. Russia replaced the South Stream Pipeline with TurkStream which has the potential to be extended to central Europe by the proposed Tesla Pipeline. Russia is countering efforts by the US to use the sanctions to block the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline’s construction. Crimea remains firmly and happily united with Russia. The Donbass is as out of reach as ever. MH17 did not drag Russia into a direct intervention. Russia continues to pursue its defense goals on a budget that is 9% of the US defense budget. Russia is pragmatic and probably will renew trade ties with the EU after sanctions have expired without renewal. But the EU probably can forget about doing deals with Russia denominated in petrodollars.

The sanctions continue to harm the EU, who is far less enthusiastic than the US about replacing cheap Russian gas with costly LNG from the US and Israel. The cost of maintaining the official MH17 narrative falls mainly on the Netherlands, Ukraine and Australia. However, the US doesn’t get a free ride. On March 23, 2020 a Dutch court ordered prosecutors to produce the US satellite images that allegedly show a Buk launch from Militia territory. The court request was repeated November 3, 2020. Although it doesn’t cost the US much to say no, there is a price to pay for coming between Russia and its EU trading partners. There is a price to pay for upholding John Kerry’s bogus claims and the official, still-flimsy US Government Assessment of July 22, 2014.

Bottom line, the downing of MH17 imposed significant and ongoing costs on everyone involved. All of them, including Russia, will continue to pay for keeping the global public in the dark. All of them feel the ever-present threat that the global public and families of the victims will become better informed about the downing. The net benefit to the United States is not great. In time it could turn negative.

The likely plan and benefits lost

Why go to so much trouble for so little? False flag attacks are not cheap. The cost of planning and carrying out the plan is only the beginning. The greater cost is the cost of maintaining the narrative while covering up the mistakes and keeping the truth out of public view for decades.

Augustine observed, “The truth is like a lion; you don’t have to defend it. Let it loose; it will defend itself.” In contrast, lies require a vigorous and ongoing defense. Having set a false course, liars must stay on the course to maintain credibility no matter how ridiculous it gets. Hence we have a show trial of 4 men charged with providing a Buk TELAR that the prosecution’s own intelligence professionals say never existed. Following the false course is perceived as less costly than admitting the truth or saying that MH17 was a tragic accident. The cost rises as people who reject the lies become better funded and less impeded by geography, language barriers, etc.

If you were the state actor who premeditated the murder of MH17, would you willingly settle for the meager benefits described in this article? Wouldn’t you want to wring from it benefits that more than compensate for the costs and risks involved? How could the planners have maximized the benefits of pinning the murder of an airliner on the Separatists and Russia? What would have been the perfect, most profitable plan? These are the questions that point inquiring minds to the truth.

The likely answer is simple: crash MH17’s wreckage into the Southern Cauldron. This is not a new idea. Russian Col. Alexander Zhilin concluded likewise on July 23, 2014. He was misled by false transponder data, but his observation about the Southern Cauldron stands firm to this day.

Consider some far greater benefits that this debris field location would have provided:

• Russia could be accused of firing across the border.

• Trapped Ukrainian troops would become guardians of the debris.

• Kiev and NATO would have control over and access to the wreckage.

• Ukraine’s troops would testify that they saw a missile flying overhead from Russian territory.

• Separatist officials would be forced to open a humanitarian corridor for investigators to enter, bodies to be removed, etc. The Militia wouldn’t shell the area where wreckage fell unless seriously provoked.

• Through the relief corridor supplies also could flow to Ukraine’s troops in the cauldron.

• NATO countries could justify dropping troops into the cauldron to “stabilize the situation”.

• Ukraine could get a lock on this territory along Russia’s border.

• Ukraine would be better positioned to split the Donbass in half.

• Ukraine would be in a stronger position to join NATO and the EU.

Technically there was no problem with the idea. The airspace was open to commercial traffic above 32,000 feet. Multiple means were at hand to destroy an airliner. The Southern Cauldron was a large target. Prevailing winds would prevent lighter debris from blowing into Russian territory. Western media would quickly get in line and support the narrative.

It appears that dropping MH17’s debris into the Southern Cauldron was actually planned. MH17 was proceeding per its flight plan to waypoint TAMAK at 47.85667N, 39.21833E. That location is in the Southern Cauldron. MH17’s flight path has received more attention, but it is the flight plan that tells us more about the event as it unfolded.

What went wrong?

Everything was set. MH17 was just 3-4 minutes of flight time from the Southern Cauldron. So what happened? The answer is in the transcript of conversations between Dnipro ATC, Rostov ATC and MH17. The conversation was released by the Dutch Safety Board in their Preliminary Report on page 15. The noted UTC times are when each conversation began.

What went wrong was that Dnipro ATC did their job when Rostov ATC requested a change of course due to air traffic at Russia’s nearby airspace. The waypoint known in 2014 as RND (“ROMEO NOVEMBER DELTA” in the transcript) is now called URRR and ROV. It is the old Rostov on Don airport. The coordinates are 47.26389N, 39.81889E. Dnipro’s ATC controller probably wasn’t read into the plan because the controller didn’t need to know.

The planners didn’t anticipate Rostov’s request. They had to make a snap decision!

A course change toward RND would have been very undesirable. The debris would land on Militia-controlled territory. The closer MH17 got to the border heading toward RND, the stronger the Militia’s concentration of forces. Whether or not a decision could have been made to abort possibly hinged on the likelihood that the plan would be discovered after the fact. Perhaps there was evidence on board that would have been found. Maybe a decision to proceed was made because the false flag attack was needed urgently. Maybe there wasn’t enough time to think it though.

The decision was made to destroy MH17 immediately. The order to attack was given at 13:19:45 according to Col. Alexander Zhilin. That is the time when the phone conversation concluded between Rostov ATC and Dnipro ATC. MH17 was murdered at about 13:20:03 UTC. The false narrative and false evidence prepared in advance remained useful in part after this change of plans.

Below is a Russian language war map that shows the situation on July 17, 2014. Ukraine’s troops were firmly sealed in the Southern Cauldron. The green line is the border with Russia. I’ve annotated the map to show the last four minutes of MH17’s controlled flight, the alleged last FDR (Flight Data Recorder) position, the Southern Cauldron, the course to TAMAK, and the approved course change to RND.

Map by Kot Ivanov. Source:


Stephen R. Covey wrote, “Begin with the end in mind.” The best way to understand MH17 is to begin with the end that the planners had in mind. I’ve done that as well as I can from an armchair after many hours of secondary research. If any of this article proves to be useful or true, then to God be the glory.

The false MH17 narrative should be scorned by all who love the truth. Lies die when the public doubts. The lies concerning MH17 can die even if the hard evidence is never released. Playing it safe by keeping quiet or accepting lies only encourages more false flag events.

The global public is giving oxygen to official lies about MH17. It is time for the public to cut off the oxygen supply.

Afterword: Filling the Void

MH17 was utterly destroyed in the air within a few seconds by one or more state actors by premeditated means that did not include an external attack. No Buk missile was launched, and even if there was a launch the external explosion of a Buk missile’s 70 kg warhead isn’t powerful enough to cause disintegration within 10 seconds. Radar from the Ust-Donetsk station showed no fighters within the effective range of autocannon. Air to air missiles lack the power to cause the nearly immediate disintegration in the air of a Boeing 777-200.

The leading theories are lame, and the Buk theory is the lamest of them all. This is a lot to swallow. We cling tightly our pet theories. Our minds hate an information void. We demand to know, “If MH17 wasn’t destroyed by missiles or autocannon, then how was it destroyed?”

Aviation history proves that bombs are the gold standard for destroying air liners at cruising speed and altitude within a few seconds. Bombs are not known, however, for causing external patterns of damage that look like the work of missiles to some and like the work of autocannon to others. Such a bomb is more sophisticated than the bombs that have destroyed air liners in previous decades.

To establish bombs as the cause requires first of all the recognition that the “evidence” supporting the Buk scenario is in fact only evidence of premeditation. Second, one must examine closely hard evidence including but not limited to the distribution of the debris, the earliest photos of the debris and pieces of the debris that were ignored by the official investigators. The investigator who has made the most progress is a Russian named Yuri Antipov. He is far ahead of whoever is in second place, and he has already released a substantial body of work.

My article illuminates somewhat the destruction of MH17 based on secondary sources that have received too little attention since the crash. A patient and careful reading of Mr. Antipov’s work based on primary sources will add considerably more light. To facilitate that effort I’ve written an introduction to Yuri Antipov’s work that includes brief article descriptions and links to nearly everything that Mr. Antipov has released to date.

BIO: Sam Bullard co-owns and operates a mom and pop office furniture dealership at Charlotte, NC. His business degrees are from the U. of GA and the U. of SC. He wrote the afterword in John Helmer’s book The Lie That Shot Down MH17. After the pandemic Sam looks forward to returning to Ballantyne Presbyterian Church and singing in the Charlotte Master Chorale.


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