The “Buk” Disinformation Campaign Began in Ukraine Already Before the MH-17 Tragedy

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


The disinformation is an ensemble of communication techniques designed to give a false image of reality in order to influence public opinion. The intoxication by the media is a manipulation technique of destabilizing an adversary by providing false information in the media, or to create a media relay on its territory.

On 17th July, 2014, at 16.15 (local Ukrainian time), the flight MH-17 between Amsterdam and Kampa Lumpur is destroyed above Ukraine by a Buk missile. This tragedy is both one of the major turning points of the Ukrainian crisis and the catalyst for western sanctions against Russia. To apprehend well the campaign of misinformation and intoxication that followed and still continues still today, it is essential to know the context of the tragedy well. Accusations of the supposed use by Russia of a Buk missile existed prior to the destruction of MH-17. They date as far back as 15th July, 2014, following the destruction of a second transport plane of the Air Force of Ukraine by militia forces.

The story of AN-26 – blue 19 is instrumental in understanding the system of Ukrainian disinformation and its blind relay, or more precisely – the complicity of the western press.

Figure 1: the military situation in the East of Ukraine on July 14th – the area mentioned in the article is circled in orange. (source: National Security of Ukraine It should be noted that all maps from the month of July were removed from the site – dead link 1 dead link 2dead link 3, etc).

At the beginning of July 2014, the cease-fire of June 21st is nothing more than a memory, the forces of Kiev restart their offensive. The Ukrainian border guards, thanks to their very effective defense, still control the entirety of the border. It is to be noted that the official document of the National Security of Ukraine (figure:1) overestimates the advance of the militia towards the border. However, in order not to be accused of using “manipulated” Russian sources, documents of Ukrainian origin are always preferred.

To supply the border guards of Izvarino and Ukrainian troops Krasnodon, the Ukrainian Air Force sends a twin-engine Antonov-26 from the 456th transport brigade to perform a parachute drop. The aircraft was shot down at 16:30 in the vicinity of Kruzhylivka.

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According to the Ukrainian authorities, the aircraft was performing an airdrop of food and medicines. So, the flight had a humanist and humanitarian aim, far from the supply of arms and ammunition, as might be imagined by “pro-Russian trolls”. However, photos of the Antonov taken before its destruction allows us to glimpse at the definition of “humanitarian aid”, according to Kiev.

The photo of the Antonov-26 Blue 19 during a training flight for the dropping of “containers of Ukrainian humanitarian aid”. In the picture we can see two training bombs of type P50T (photo taken on May 15th, 2014, in Nikolaev).

The next day, in an official press release, Andriy Lisenko said that the AN-26 was flying at an altitude of 6500 m when it was hit by a missile, probably fired from neighbouring Russia.

While the Ukrainian President declared:

“The Defense Minister Valery Geletey reported to the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko that the crew members of the AN-26, which was shot down whilst completing tasks in the framework of the active phase of the ATO, made contact with the General Staff. He also noted that, given the fact that the plane was flying at an altitude of 6500m, its destruction by MANPADS is impossible, the plane was shot down from another more powerful missile, which was used probably from the Russian Federation.”

This quote could not be linked to its original source, because the press release was deleted by the Ukrainian Presidency (dead link 1 cited in the article 1, article 2, and 3).

The Ukrainian Government declared that the shot was probably fired from Russia for two reasons. The first is the systematic commitment to implicate Russia in the Ukrainian civil war, to externalise and in this way to provoke the opening of an open conflict between NATO and Russia. The second one is that, in July 2014, Ukraine still totally controls the border (represented in green on the map – ділянки кордону під контролем україни: border areas under the control of Ukraine). So such a ground-to-air system couldn’t have been introduced in Ukraine. It’s only from 28th July that the Ukrainian authorities indicate that they lost control of the border. Kiev therefore implicitly recognizes that the militia does not have adequate weapons to that date.

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These facts are immediately relayed in the French and international press (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). The next day in the Ukrainian media the ground-to-air Buk missiles make their appearance.

After the destruction of MH-17, Petro Poroshenko declares that he does not exclude that the AN-26 and MH-17 were destroyed in the same way. The French press, like a faithful “clodhopper” of Kiev, immediately follows in its steps, like, for example, Sud-Ouest“The 14th of July, the pro-russian forces claimed responsibility for the destruction of a Ukrainian cargo plane of the Antonov type, shot down at more than 6,000 metres altitude, which is outside the range of a missile fired from the shoulder, but not of a SA-11 (Buk)”, and Courrier International:

“On July 14th, a Ukrainian military Antonov transport plane AN-26 was destroyed by a missile ‘at an altitude of 6,500 metres,’ recalls ‘Ukrainian Pravda’. At the time, many Ukrainian observers believed that this could only be possible thanks to the intervention of weapons systems such as the SA-13 or SA-17 Grizzly, which the Russians baptised as ‘Buk’.”

Thus the destruction of the AN-26 becomes one piece of “evidence” of the use by the militia or by Russia itself of a Buk missile on Ukrainian territory.

But what is this really?

The first question is: what altitude was the AN-26 flying at?

The first approach makes good sense. The aircraft was performing a parachute drop of supplies above Izvarino, a town that borders Russia, besieged in its west by the militia. In order to avoid the cargo landing in Russia or among the enemy, the airdrop must be performed at a low altitude (between 300 and 500m). The maximum rate of climb of a 34-year-old AN-26 is at best 8/ms, which implies that it took it nearly 13 minutes to reach an altitude of 6500 m.

During this period of time the aircraft covers a distance of approximately 60 km. However, there is only 28 km between Izvarino and the site of the crash. So it’s impossible that the aircraft could fly at such an altitude. Using the potential of the aircraft at its best, and based on the performance of a new airplane, a maximum altitude of 3500m can be maintained.

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With a trigonometric estimation based on the videos of the crash, one Internet user arrives at an altitude of 3600m.

The fuselage of the AN-26 can be pressurized up to an altitude of 6500m. If the plane had been hit by a missile of the Buk type, it would have suffered a brutal depressurization, and would have broken apart like the MH-17. However, at the time of the impact with the ground the plane was still “intact”.

Beyond the reflections of common sense and the calculations of bloggers and Internet users, this issue was discussed during the investigation into the crash of MH-17. The [dutch – ed] Military Intelligence Service responded to this question (page 239 of the report of the Dutch Safety Board, and page 24 of the report of the Commission for the Supervision of Intelligence and Security Services.

The Military Intelligence Service arrived at the conclusion that the Antonov 26 was not flying at 6500 meters and was destroyed by a MANPADS at a maximum altitude of 3500m.

So, it appears that well before the destruction of MH17, Ukraine had begun a campaign of disinformation on the use by the militia and Russia of a ground-to-air missile of long range. This campaign was picked up by western media at first and then used by the same media as proof of the involvement of the militia and/or Russia in the destruction of the Amsterdam-Lumpur flight.

As the allegations above, which served as proof to accuse Russia, revealing itself to be false, what about the evidence pushed forward for MH-17?…

This is a question that will be discussed in future articles.

PS: in a disturbing manner, research on the Internet into the documents of this period leads to many dead links on Ukrainian official sites (the disappearance of maps, official statements, etc). Willingness to cover their tracks? Disorganisation in the computer services of the official structures of Ukraine? The choice of response is left to the readers.

[button color=”white” size=”big” alignment=”center” rel=”follow” openin=”newwindow” url=””]Click here for Part 2 of this MH-17 series authored by Laurent Courtois[/button]

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