Who brought down MH17? For the Dutch government it is certain that the Russian military is to blame. But according to researcher Max van der Werff there is every reason to doubt. "Based on the evidence that has been made public, I still cannot reach any definitive conclusion."
The disaster of flight MH17 was caused by a Buk missile that was launched from an agricultural field in Eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian rebels. Thus the official investigators of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) announced in September 2016. The installation that launched the fatal Buk missile is believed to betransported from Russia to Ukraine. In May 2018 the JIT added that the Buk installation came from the 53rd Brigade of the Russian army, but it is still unclear whether that brigade itself was actively involved in the shooting down of the Malaysian passenger plane. Subsequently, the Netherlands and Australia accused the Russian Federation of complicityfor the disaster.
It appears that few in the Netherlands still doubt the official position of the JIT. If we are to believe the Dutchgovernment and media, Russia is the major culprit. MH17 blogger Max van der Werff, however, stubbornly maintains that essential parts of the JIT investigation are flawed. Van der Werff's name may be missing in the Dutch newspaper columns and from current affairs programs on radio and television, his findings are valued by mayor players concerned, not in the least by researchers from the JIT. Van der Werff was interviewed extensively by JIT investigators on three separate occasions. He has also submitted to them items from the plane that he received from people living in the disaster area. Van der Werff has traveled twice to eastern Ukraine to conduct his own research. He speaks Russian, has a background as a corporate investigator and has spent thousands of hours trying to find out the true cause of the disaster. His findings can be read on his blog Kremlintroll. Before the start of his investigation on MH17 Van der Werff made a name for himself as an independent investigator of war crimes commited by the Dutch military during the Indonesian War of Independence.
In June 2017 Dutch online magazine Novini published a comprehensive double interview with Van der Werff and another MH17 blogger, Marcel van der Berg, who claims he is confident about Russia's involvement in the disaster. Novini invited both experts to follow up on their dialogue, but Van den Berg was unwilling to participate this time.
Max, last year we examined in great detail the first three years of MH17. In your opinion, what are the most important events and developments over the past year?
Without a doubt, the formal accusation of the Russian Federation by the Netherlands and Australia, followed by the first real firm denial by President Vladimir Putin. The positions on what really happened can no longer be reconciled and neither party can go back.
Has your view on the disaster changed since last year? Are there any scenarios that you have eliminated? Or maybe there is a scenario that you want to defend?
Everyone seems to know exactly what happened. However, on the basis of what has been publicly disclosed as evidence, I still cannot draw any definite conclusion. If you find that strange, then examine my article MH17 - 1448 Days before making a judgment. In that article, I analyze all of the evidence which the JIT has presented, ranging from the first press conference on September 28, 2016 until the present.
I do not exclude the possibility that MH17 was shot down by rebels with a BUK installation supplied by Russia. However, I remain definitely open to scenarios that differ from the JIT finding due to the fact that not everything is known about the exact cause or all of the relevant circumstances. For example: the possibility that the rebels brought down MH17 with a weapon captured from the Ukrainian army. Or that an exercise by a brigade of Ukrainian air defenses got out of hand. The latter is a real possibility. Ukraine is capable of such a thing. In 2001, during a military exercise, a Russian charter aircraft was shot down over the Black Sea. Kiev initially denied being responsible.
On the raw radar images that Russia delivered in 2016 and 2017, no other aircraft can be seen in the vicinity of MH17. Would this by now be a reason to exclude the scenario that MH17 has been shot down by a fighter jet?
On the raw radar imagery supplied by Russia, not only are there no other planes seen, but there is also no missile seen. It is certain to me that fighter planes have flown just before MH17 came down. There are simply too many people who have seen that. That they flew at a low altitude is probably the reason that they cannot be seen on radar images. I am not an expert; therefore, I will not make any statements about that. However, I did speak with dozens of people in the disaster area who have seen or claim to have seen something. One of those persons is Lev Bulatov from Petropavlovka. Lev saw fighter jets flying over at low altitude: not one, not two, but three! During the interview I did with him, he was standing in the same spot where parts of the wreckage of the Boeing fell into his garden.
How do you know if Lev Bulatov speaks the truth?
Of course I am not sure if he is telling the truth, but to me he seems very credible. He is willing to make a statement under oath and with a lie detector. Unfortunately, to date the JIT has not interviewed him.