Shortly after MH17 was downed on VKontakte a social media post surfaced in which Igor Ivanovich Strelkov allegedly bragged about the separatists having downed an AN-26 freighter plane, which turned out to be the Malaysian Airlines passenger plane. That post was based on a short report by ‘Margo-Donetsk’ from Strelkov’s ‘Military reports’ thread at the forum-antikvariat.ru website.
In this report the post at the ‘Strelkov_info’ Vkontakte community and its source will be examined, within the context of what was known on social media at that time. In addition, a reconstruction of the ‘Military reports’ thread from that afternoon and evening is presented, demonstrating that any trace that could associate Strelkov’s thread to the downed Boeing was rigorously deleted.
Here’s some ‘blurb’ following on the initial publication of this report 😉
— Aric Toler (@AricToler) September 23, 2016
— Eliot Higgins (@EliotHiggins) September 23, 2016
— Jeroen Akkermans (@JeroenAkkermans) September 23, 2016
In the afternoon of July 17th a message surfaced that was assumed to be posted by Igor Strelkov. It was posted at 17:16 by a community on VKontakte named “Reports from Igor Ivanovich Strelkov” (“Сводки от Стрелкова Игоря Ивановича”). A little earlier, at 16:41, another post at the community already had mentioned the downing, but the 17:16 message was regarded as a claim of responsibility for the downing.
The first two sentences of that post read as follows:
В районе Тореза только что сбили самолет Ан-26, валяется где-то за шахтой “Прогресс”.
Предупреждали же – не летать в “нашем небе”.
Near Torez an An-26 plane was just shot down, it’s lying somewhere beyond the “Progress” mine.
They were warned already – not to fly in “our sky”.
Around 18:00 news broke that a Boeing 777 from Malaysia Airlines had crashed in East Ukraine. The AN-26 freighter plane turned out to be MH17.
After the media reported about the post as coming from Strelkov both posts were removed from the community’s pages.
The VKontakte community that published the message had been active for a few months at that time. The url of the community (still) is: http://vk.com/strelkov_info. Its Twitter account was registered in May 2014 and the first VKontakte page captured at the Internet Archive is from June 1st, 2014. On that first captured page the community described itself as:
Daily reports on the situation in Slavyansk from (reposts of messages of Igor Ivanovich) the leader of the people’s militia of Donbass Igor Ivanovich Strelkov, his comrades-in-arms, militiamen, and eyewitnesses of events, promptly and at one site. No spammy advertisements, no irrelevant images or news. The group was created to systematize all credible reports coming from Slavyansk. The group is nonprofit, there will never be advertisements of bibelots or begging for donations. We are working out of pure enthusiasm and the desire to deliver truthful and correct information to the readers.
However, this explanatory text was no longer present on the main page of the community on July 17th. When news media got hold of the 17:16 message posted at the Strelkov_info community they forgot to check the source and the nature of that source. In the turmoil of news on the downing of MH17 the post at Strelkov_info was hastily welcomed as a message from Strelkov himself and, therefore, as a token of guilt on the part of the separatists. With this social media post it was obvious who was to blame.
Igor Vsevolodovich Girkin, better known as Igor Ivanovich Strelkov (the latter meaning ‘Shooter’ or ‘Gunman’), was the commander of the armed forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic as well as Defense Minister and head of the Security Council from mid May to August 14, 2014, when he resigned (or was forced to resign). Earlier, on April 12th, 2014, Strelkov had crossed the border from Russia, with a unit formed on the territory of Crimea, and took over Slavyansk. Most likely some time after this success the Strelkov_info community was formed.
After the defeat at and withdrawal frow Slavyansk on July 5th, Strelkov retreated to Donetsk and declared himself “military commander of Donetsk” on July 16th, where he introduced martial law from Stalin-era and implemented curfew on that same day.
At that time Strelkov himself was not active on social media. Nowadays he’s active on both VKontakte and Twitter, but back then he only contributed to a thread on a rather obscure forum, forum-antikvariat.ru.
This forum was no well-known media outlet: the forum-antikvariat.ru site is aimed at collectors of war relics (like uniforms, weaponry, ammunition, etc.) and enthusiasts for war event reenactment.
Strelkov himself is a war reenactment fan and “particularly loves the 1918-1920 battles of the Russian civil war, where he usually plays the role of a White Guard officer”.
The thread where Strelkov placed his posts was titled “Military reports from the south eastern front” and Strelkov was a regular contributor, using the pseudonym “Kotych” (meaning “Son of Cat”). The thread was initially started in January 2014 by Strelkov himself. Here he posted short reports on the war and occasionally responded to questions from forum users.
Since this was the only public platform on which Strelkov posted news or comments, the thread became an important source to many pro-separatists Vkontakte communities, like Strelkov_info, but also to some separatists’ news media. Communities like Strelkov_info blindly copied each and every post by Strelkov published at the forum.
At Strelkov_info these messages, written by ‘Kotych’ himself, were marked with a special banner:
But these communities also copied other interesting posts on the forum from other users, that reported on military events. Such messages were introduced at Strelkov_info with descriptions like “Posted by militia”, “Posted by military analyst militia”, “Posted by political analyst”, etc.
The contents of such posts were gathered from a multitude of sources, which in most cases were not further specified. This led to misinformation from time to time.
At Strelkov’s “Military reports” thread each page starts with a default post from Severt, the administrator, which contains general instructions. On July 17th the default post contained a statement about two “fan” sites, that was copied from a Strelkov message posted a few days earlier.
On July 13th at 15:10 Strelkov wrote:
Сообщаю также, что сайт icorpus является “натуральным”, а его копия с буквой k – подделкой.
It is also reported, that the site icorpus is “natural”, and a copy with the letter k – fake.
Icorpus.ru and ikorpus.ru were both fully dedicated to information about Strelkov. Both sites have disappeared by now, but both sites copied content from open sources. Earlier on, on June 18th, Strelkov already had made a video statement about icorpus.ru in which he stated “icorpus will publish our and my own messages, also from other trusted groups”.
A day earlier, on July 12th, both the Strelkov_info and the Novorossia Today communities were condemned as being not trustworthy. However, this clarification was published at ikorpus.ru, which was to be deemed fake a day later… The clarification text may also have appeared on icorpus.ru though, but there are no archive copies of that site from around that time, so this remains uncertain. Anyway, this example demonstrates that genuine written accounts on behalf of Strelkov should only be sought in the thread on the forum-antikvariat.ru.
Up till now a few publications have addressed the Strelkov_info post and its origins. Catherine Fitzpatrick, staff member at Interpretermag.com, wrote about them already on July 18th, 2014 and July 25th, 2014. A year later she wrote two subsequent pieces adding some more background information, on July 16th and 17th, 2015. In these last two articles Fitzpatrick shows that the source for the Strelkov_info messages about the downed plane was a post on the “Military reports” thread at the aforementioned forum, by a user named ‘Margo-Donetsk’. This post was also deleted on the early eve of the 17th.
In her contributions to Interpretermag Fitzpatrick argues that the Strelkov_info community was authorized to publish Strelkov’s accounts. More important, she suggests that Strelkov himself posted one or more messages regarding the downing at the forum that afternoon, which were deleted shortly after.
Blogger Hector Reban also addressed this topic, at first in May/June 2015 and subsequently in June 2016. In his first blog post Reban argues that the Strelkov_info community was not sanctioned by Strelkov himself. Also, the 17:16 post, cited above, did not contain the banner with which the community marked the messages written by Strelkov himself. Instead, the message was labeled as “Posted by militia”. Reban further states that deleting both messages, after it turned out that MH17 had been downed instead of an AN-26, should not be considered as an act to hide the truth. In his second piece Reban analyses the arguments provided by Fitzpatrick and concludes that her discussion of the posts is built on several assumptions, which cannot be underpinned.
In this report I will re-examine both Strelkov_info posts and their source, the post by Margo-Donetsk at the forum-antikvariat.ru (which hereafter will be adressed as ‘the forum’ or ‘the antiques forum’). Also, I will show a reconstruction of Strelkov’s “Military reports” thread of that afternoon and evening.
This report is divided into three parts:
– part 1 addresses details of the publication and removal of the Strelkov_info posts regarding an AN-26 downed;
– part 2 provides an in-depth analysis of the Margo-Donetsk post published in Strelkov’s “Military reports” thread at the ‘antiques forum’, within the context of what was known on social media during the time span it was edited;
– part 3 presents other messages that were deleted in the afternoon and evening from the “Military reports” thread on the ‘antiques forum’, which I managed to recover. This reconstruction of the thread shows how the news on MH17 being downed was dealt with at Strelkov’s forum thread.
Before continuing reading this report it is recommended to read my article on the arrival of the separatists at the crash sites of Grabovo and Rozsypne first, as it provides further context to this report.
Please note: the times given are in EEST, Ukrainian local time, unless specified else.
First of all: thanks to Jeep Forum user Valvod and Twitter users @Sensei_SunSay and @lennutrajektoor. Also thanks to the Internet Archive, Archive.is and the peeep.us archive. Without these sources this report could not have been written.
If you like this report, please make a donation to the Internet Archive!
Next I’d like to thank Aric Toler for helping me out on some translations, sharing information and his encouragement!
Many thanks to @Sl0zhny for explaining what’s being said in several videos, providing some transcriptions and for helping me out with some last minute translation issues.
Also many thanks to @Lena_from_Kiev who has been so kind to correct a large part of my translations from Russian. Lena too provided several valuable suggestions.
Lena and Sl0zhny, this report would not have been the same without you!
Any account of the events in the immediate aftermath of the downing of MH17 based on social media or other open sources is by definition incomplete.
At the time information was scattered, incomplete and inaccurate. Also, many social media posts (like tweets or comments at VKontakte posts) were parroting hearsay from other sources, like Zello and personal messaging. Nevertheless, I have tried to conscientiously depict a representation of the unfolding narrative in the first hour, when the Strelkov_info posts and their source, the Margo-Donetsk post originated.
“apparently an AN-26” – re-examining the Strelkov_info posts
So far no one has thoroughly examined the contents of the first and second post at the Strelkov_info VKontakte community in terms of their ‘genesis’. In this part I will first describe the publication and removal of these posts in detail.
The genesis of the 2 posts
In fact there were two posts at the Strelkov_info community that reported on the downing of a Ukrainian AN-26 freighter plane. Already at 16:41 the Strelkov_info community published a lesser known post, that contained only one line about the event. Then, at 17:16, the notorious second post was published. In both cases also a tweet was sent announcing each post, at the time of posting.
The first Strelkov_info post
The first Strelkov_info post opens with a textual timestamp of ‘17.07.2014 17:37 MSK’, where the actual timestamp of the post was 17:41 MSK, which equals 16:41 EEST. The real timestamp can be seen beneath the text on this image of the post, as it was captured by the Internet archive at 19:23:
But, this was not the text that was published originally at that exact time. In fact only the first line and the four lines after that (from Между up to это?!) were published at 16:41.
The rest of the text (starting from 13:50 MCK) was added some time later, before 17:08.By means of the wall.getReposts function of Vkontakte’s Application Programming Interface (API) it’s possible to check whether a message has been reposted and also what the message looked like at the time of a certain repost. The first Strelkov_info post was reposted already two minutes ...continue
Both the first line and the lines from from Между up to это?! had been copied from Strelkov’s “Military reports” thread at the ‘antiques forum’, but they came from separate posts, both written by user Margo-Donetsk.
The text after the opening line, starting with “Между” and ending with “это?!”, is a literal copy of a post by user Margo-Donetsk on the ‘antiques’ forum, published at 16:08 (note: the screenshot shows the time in UTC):
However, the first line of the first Strelkov_info post, about the AN-26 downed, was based on another post by Margo-Donetsk at the ‘antiques forum’. That post by Margo was published at 16:37 (equalling 17:37 Moscow Time).
This also explains why the first Strelkov_info post opens with “17:37 MSK”. (Part 2 of this report will discuss this Margo-Donetsk post in great detail.)
As mentioned, the first Strelkov_info post was published four minutes later, at 16:41. At the same time a tweet was sent, announcing the post.
The text as assembled from these two sources and published on Strelkov_info at 16:41 reads as follows:
17.07.2014 17:37 (MSK) Posted by militia.
Near Snizhne an AN-26 was just shot down, it’s lying somewhere beyond the “Progress” mine.
Between Konstantinovka and Donetsk there were 3 Ukrainian checkpoints (at the exit from Konstantinovka towards Kleban-Byk [a landscape park near Konstantinovka, AG]). Now they are withdrawing and moving off towards Kramatorsk. They are folding up, loading beds onto trucks, there are vans for people, tanks are already deployed, guns are pulled out (they were dug in), and all other hardware goes somewhere. What is it for?!
The second Strelkov_info post
The second Strelkov_info post was published at 17:16, even though it opens with ’17:50 MSK’ which is equivalent to 16:50 EEST. It seems as if it took the editor (or administrator) at Strelkov_info 26 minutes to finish the post and publish it.
The eldest repost I could retrieve has a timestamp of 17:45. The text of that repost is identical to the version as captured by the Internet archive, which we also know from the screenshots presented later that evening in the media, on Twitter and elsewhere.
The post, as captured at 18:57 by the Internet Archive, looks like this:
(The timestamp at the bottom shows the Moscow time.)
The text shown reads as follows:
“В районе Тореза только что сбили самолет Ан-26, валяется где-то за шахтой “Прогресс”.
Предупреждали же – не летать в “нашем небе”.
А вот и видео-подтверждение очередного “птичкопада”.
Птичка упала за террикон, жилой сектор не зацепила. Мирные люди не пострадали.
А также еще есть информация о втором сбитом самолете, вроде бы Су.”
“Near Torez an An-26 plane was just shot down, it’s lying somewhere beyond the “Progress” mine.
They were warned already – not to fly in “our sky”.
Here is a video confirmation of the latest “bird drop”.
The bird fell beyond the slag heap, it did not damage the residential sector. Civilians were not hurt.
There is also information about a second downed airplane, apparently a Su.”
[The first part of the second sentence may be translated in several ways. It may be translated as “Because the warning has been issued”, but also as “They were warned indeed” or “They were warned already”.
In any case it should be understood as a phrase emphasizing the event could have been prevented.]
At the bottom of the post screenshots of two videos are presented. Details on the publication history of these videos are given in Appendix 1. For now, it suffices to mention that the second video link referred to in this post was created at 17:20, which is four minutes after the second Strelkov_info was published. Therefore, the post initially contained one video link and after some time the link to the second video was added to the post.
Both the first and the second Strelkov_info post open with the same line. However, there are differences:
– the ’17:50 MSK’ post mentions Torez instead of Snizhne in the ’17:37 MSK’ post;
– the ’17:50 MSK’ post adds the word самолет, preceding “Ан-26”.
When we compare the text of the ’17:50 MSK’ post with its source, the post by Margo-Donetsk at forum-antikwariat.ru, there are differences as well.
Margo’s post was published at 16:37, but it was last edited at 17:04, as can be seen in the grey line beneath the text which is preceded by a triangle containing an exclamation mark.
Margo’s post in its final state, last edited at 17:04 as preserved in the screenshot, mentions Torez. From the first Strelkov_info post (and the tweet announcing that post) we know that Margo initially had mentioned Snizhne.
The other differences between the second Strelkov_info post and Margo’s post are marked hereafter within brackets:
В районе Тореза только что сбили самолет [, вроде бы] Ан-26, валяется где-то за шахтой “Прогресс”. Предупреждали же – не летать в “нашем небе”. [smiley]
А вот и видео-подтверждение очередного “птичкопада” [link to YouTube video]
Птичка упала за террикон, жилой сектор не зацепила. Мирные люди не пострадали.
А также еще есть информация о втором сбитом самолете, вроде бы Су.
In the first sentence the words “вроде бы” are extra, compared to the Strelkov_info post. This is a significant difference, as these words can be translated with ‘like’, ‘such as’, ‘kind of’, ‘seemingly’ or ‘apparently’. Margo is making some restriction here, which is not present in both Strelkov_info posts.
Also Margo’s post contains a smiley after the second sentence. Her text contains three line breaks, whereas the second Strelkov_info post has only one.
What’s more, the Strelkov_info text as a whole is placed within quotation marks. Since these quotation marks signal that the text has been literally quoted in full, one might wonder why both texts do differ at some details…
At the time the VKontakte-post was published, at 17:16, @strelkov_info also sent a tweet referring to this second post:
The text of this tweet shows that the second Strelkov_info post initially did contain the words “, вроде бы” as well.
(Please note: neither the first Strelkov_info post, cited earlier, nor the tweet announcing it at 16:41 contained these words.)
From this we may conclude:
1. Margo added the phrase “вроде бы” later on, when she edited her post in between 16:37 and 17:04
2. Strelkov_info edited their second post after some time and by then the phrase cited was left out.
From additional sources it becomes evident that the second Strelkov_info post initially contained a literal copy of Margo’s post: it also contained the smiley after the second sentence.There is more evidence that the second Strelkov_info post initially was a literal copy of Margo’s post and that it even contained the smiley after the second sentence. First, there’s an article at pravda-tv.ru, which provides an overview of separatists’ news of the 17th. It ...continue
Shortly after it was published at 17:16 it was edited when a second video was referred to, in addition to the one mentioned by Margo.
Between 17:30 and 17:35 it was edited once more, leaving out the “вроде бы” and also removing the smiley. A tweet sent at 17:35 cites the first line without that phrase, which proves it had just been altered at that time.
Apparently the editor at Strelkov_info had become convinced that the downed plane was an AN-26, so the “вроде бы” was left out. By that time he (or she) may have read some news reports, that mentioned an AN-26, without any restriction, like these from Ria Novosti and Russia Today.
Also, he or she left out the smiley – maybe lacking the irony (or sarcasm) implied?
|Margo original post||First Strelkov_info post||Second Strelkov_info post|
contains phrase “сбили Ан-26”
|16:41||–||Mentions Snizhne, contains phrase “сбили Ан-26”||–|
|17:04||Mentions Torez, contains phrase “сбили самолет, вроде бы Ан-26,” also contains smiley, and refers to video at YouTube directly||–||–|
|17:16||–||–||Mentions Torez, contains phrase “сбили самолет, вроде бы Ан-26,” and smiley, and embedding video by means of a VKontakte video link|
|17:20-17:30||Second video added|
|17:30-17:35||–||–||Phrase “, вроде бы” removed and the smiley left out as well.|
The second Strelkov_info post was removed in between 19:37 and 19:46.
At 19:25 a repost was made, which today still shows the original 17.50 MSK post, even though the latter has been deleted now.
At 19:34 there’s a last referral to the second Strelkov_info post:
@MasiNayem Сам главнокомандующий признался: https://vk.com/strelkov_info?w=wall-57424472_7256 … Что ещё надо? Отпечатки пальцев Гиркина на “боинге”?..
@MasiNayem The commander in chief himself admitted: https://vk.com/strelkov_info?w=wall-57424472_7256 … What else do you want? Girkin’s fingerprints on the “Boeing”?..
The first tweet mentioning the disappearance of the post was sent at 19:46:
На странице “Сводки стрелкова” удалили новость и видео о сбитом сегодня АН-26 https://vk.com/strelkov_info
On the “Summaries Strelkov” the news and video about the AN-26 downed today was removed https://vk.com/strelkov_info
In the meantime a new post had been published at Strelkov_info, at exactly 19:00. That new post was about MH17:
17/07/2014 Moscow, INTERFAX.- Donetsk People’s Republic leadership denies involvement in the downfall of the Malaysian aircraft “Boeing-777” near Donetsk. On this “Interfax” quotes a member of the Security Council of the Republic Sergey Kavtaradze.
According to him, the militia has no weapons at its disposal capable to shoot down a plane at a height of 10,000 meters. The portable surface-to-air missiles operated by the DPR have a maximum range of hitting of three thousand meters.
For a while both the first and second Strelkov_info posts on the AN-26 ànd this new post about the Boeing 777 were shown at the community next to each other. This can be seen in a screenshot, from the peeep.us archive (also here), made at 19:37 EEST:
A Twitter user, providing another screenshot of this anomaly, at 19:32 commented:
Хвастаемся, а потом отрицаем. Очень последовательно #ДНР #ЛНР #стрелков
Brag, and then deny. Very consistent. #DPR #LPR #Strelkov
We can conclude that the second Strelkov post was deleted in between 19:37, when it was captured by peeep.us, and 19:46, when the first tweet about its removal was sent. This raises the question why the editor at Strelkov_info maintained the post for one and a half hour after it had became known that a civilian plane had been downed.
The news that a Boeing 777 from Malaysia Airlines had been downed spread slowly as of 17:50, with the major Ukrainian and Russian news outlets publishing the news shortly after 18:00, a bit later followed by international media.
Were the editors at Strelkov_info assuming that both an AN-26 and a Boeing had been taken down? Or were they just negligent?
Why was the ’17:50 MSK’ post removed approximately 40 minutes after the new post about the Boeing had been published at 19.00, and not as soon as the news about MH17 had begun to spread?
Evidently they removed the ’17:50 MSK’ post only after it had been presented by the media as Strelkov’s claim of the downing.
Before the news media had gotten hold of the issue, on social media remarks already had been made, firstly by the EuroMaydan community on Facebook, at 18:13:
Судячи з усього, терористи збили літак Malaysia Airlines. Стрєлков хвалиться у Вконтакті. Є відео.
Apparently, the terrorists shot down a Malaysia Airlines plane. Strelkov brags on Vkontakte. There are videos.
Обезьяны, ваши дни окончены.
Monkeys, your days are over.
After this the news media caught up, further spreading the message that Strelkov himself had bragged about the downing of MH17.
As far as I know, the first news site replicating the story was Взгляд (‘Look’) at 18:27, under the heading ‘Стрелков цинично подтвердил информацию о сбитом над Торезом самолете’ (‘Strelkov cynically confirmed the information about the plane downed over Torez’). Next it was published by Espreso.tv at 18:39, тсн (‘TSN’) at 18:40, Цензор.НЕТ (‘Censor.net’) at 18:48 and many more. Especially the censor.net.ua story was referred to many times on Twitter.
Some Russian media brought the story too e.g. Политикус (‘Politikus’) at 18:49 and Русевик (‘Rusevik’) at 19:36.
Not long after international media also presented the story. Within two hours the story of Strelkov bragging about the downed plane had become known all over the world.
On the 18th Fyodor Berezin, deputy Minister of Defense of the Donetsk People’s Republic, spoke of a “clearly coordinated campaign”. According to him the screenshot with the Strelkov_info post was “almost simultaneously” published at Ukrainian internet resources as well as on several blogs. He also stated that the “stuffing was carried out simultaneously in Russian, Ukrainian, English and German”. This, the article concluded, was proof that the downing of MH17 had been “a pre-conceived provocation” from Ukraine.
Evidently the editor at Strelkov_info became informed rather late about the ‘shit storm’ that had developed. In between 19:37 and 19:46 the post was finally deleted.
Yet, at that moment the editor did not bother with the first post, published at 16:41, that opened with the line “В районе Снежного только что сбили Ан-26, валяется где-то за шахтой “Прогресс” (“Near Snizhne an AN-26 was just show down, it’s lying somewhere beyond the “Progress” mine). That line in itself is a rather neutral observation, and not as incriminating as the text of the second post.
Nevertheless, that line was to be erased as well.
By means of examining reposts I was able to determine within which time frame the post was altered. At 21.02 there is a last repost with the first line included. User Anastasia Petrova ironically comments: “AN-26 yes”, followed by the repost.
The first repost of the edited version, with the first line removed, was made at 22:12. User Alexey Przhevalsky comments: “New update. They are erasing everything quickly.”
Therefore: some time in between 21:02 and 22:12 the first line about the AN-26 was removed as well.
When the alleged Strelkov post got mass attention in the media, immediately some people were reacting in defense of Strelkov, stating that the Strelkov_info community was not publishing on his behalf. E.g. by a Russian news site at 19:30, on VKontakte at 19:42 and also on Twitter, at 19:33 and at 19:42. Both tweets pointed at the ‘antiques forum’ being the only genuine communication channel for Strelkov. The latter tweet even provided the url of the exact page where the Margo-Donetsk post had been published at the forum. But by then Margo’s post had been deleted already.
“not to fly in ‘our sky'” – examining the Margo-Donetsk post
First of all, who is Margo-Donetsk? Most likely Margo was not a militia member, but a civilian reporting on military movements or occurences.
From the user profile on forum-antikvariat.ru it is evident she was befriended with Strelkov, whose alias was Котыч (Kotych):
‘Befriended’ on a forum doesn’t imply that people are befriended in real life as well. However, given the relatively small community contributing to this specific forum thread and the fact that Margo was living in Donetsk, where Strelkov’s headquarters were also based, there may have been some contact outside the forum as well.
Among her forum friends also Плохой солдат (“Bad soldier”) can be found, which happens to be Sergey Nikolaevich Dubinsky. In the aftermath of the downing of MH17 Dubinsky became better known as “Khmuryi” (Gloomy) from the intercepts released by the SBU on July 18th. Initially the Ukrainian Secret Service (Служба Безпеки України, SBU) identified him as Sergey Nikolaevich Pretrovsky.The footnote to the original publication of this report on September 23rd, 2016, mentioned: “According to some sources Petrovksy’s real name is Dubinsky – see here or here.” Earlier on I already pointed to a video where the real Petrovksy/Dubinsky is shown, in response to an ...continue
It is presumed Dubinsky was in charge of the Buk transport, in cooperation with Fyodor Berezin (who allegedly is the “Bibliotekar” mentioned in these intercepts). At the time Berezin was a deputy Minister of Defense too. Before becoming active with the DPR Berezin had gained some fame as a science fiction writer.
Another indication of Margo and Strelkov being ‘related somehow’ comes from a post on July 15th in which Margo urges Strelkov to check his personal messages on the forum:
Margo’s profile picture shows a fantasy style drawing with a witch on a broomstick:
The tagline next to her user name states:
Надежная,как контрольный выстрел! Единственная, как последний шанс!
Reliable, as a control shot! Singular, as the last chance!
As place of residence Donetsk is given. She last visited the forum on February 27th, 2016, but already on April 22nd, 2015, her last post was placed, where she wrote some sort of farewell message.
Kotych’s friends page looks like this:
Obviously Strelkov has some more friends on the forum, but still the list is rather limited.
His profile picture is a drawing by Igor Smirnov, showing Don Quixote…:
As mentioned in part 1: the post by Margo-Donetsk that sourced the Strelkov_info posts has a time stamp of 16:37:05 (on screen 17:37:05 Moscow Time), but the screenshot also shows it was post edited at 17:04. This proves that the text has been edited in between.
From the discussion in part 1 it has already become evident that the post was indeed edited.
The next question is: what was the content of this post at 16:37? And what was edited or added later on?
And at what time approximately?
The first two sentences
Two minutes after Margo’s post was published at the ‘antiques’ forum a tweet was published, with almost the same wording of the first two lines of her text. At 16:39 Twitter user @tohub writes:
“В районе #Снежное только что сбили Ан-26, валяется где-то за шахтой “Прогресс” …предупреждали же
Near #Snizhne an AN-26 was just shot down, it’s lying somewhere beyond the “Progress” mine …They were warned already
When comparing @tohub’s tweet to the first Strelkov_info post, posted at 16:41 and discussed earlier, there are 3 differences. (The first line of that Strelkov_info post was:
В районе Снежного только что сбили Ан-26, валяется где-то за шахтой “Прогресс”.)
- The @tohub tweet opens with a quotation mark, but his tweet doesn’t end with one, even though he used only 99 out of 140 available characters. This may me due to lenience or haste.
- @tohub uses #Снежное instead of Снежного (because of the hashtag he used the basic form of the name)
- Most important, he adds the phrase: …предупреждали же.
When comparing the tweet to the Margo post itself, there are differences as well:
- Instead of “Снежного” (Snizhne) Margo mentions “Тореза” (Torez)
- Just like Strelkov_info, @tohub does not provide the phrase “, вроде бы”, which shows – as argued in part I – Margo must have added these words later on;
- @tohub adds “…предупреждали же” (…They were warned already), which is not found in the 1st Strelkov_info post, and comes from the beginning of the second sentence of Margo’s post.
From this we may conclude that:
– the first two sentences of the Margo post were already published at 16:37. For some reason Strelkov_info only quoted the first line;
– initially Margo mentioned Snizhne instead of Torez;
– Margo’s post initially did not contain the phrase “, вроде бы”, as both the first post (and tweet) by Strelkov_info and the tweet by @tohub do not include it.
This means that she added it, at a later time, which implies that later on some doubts had arisen on what plane exactly had fallen!
The question remains why @tohub didn’t cite the first two sentences in full and broke up after “же”.
If both sentences had been cited in full, they would taken less than 140 characters.
Since @tohub had the habit of quoting accurately (which is evidenced by his Twitter timeline and his use of Twitlonger to fully cite Strelkov’s posts), it may also be, that the last part of the sentence (“Not to fly in ‘our sky'”) was added later.
This might also explain why the first Strelkov_info post didn’t quote the “…предупреждали же” at 16:41, but only the first sentence. They probably left out the “warned already” bit, since it doesn’t add any more information as such.
Besides, by not quoting Margo’s 2nd sentence in full, there was enough space for @tohub to include a link to the video mentioned in Margo’s post. But he did not refer to that video. This suggests that the third sentence with the video link was added later on.
Another question is: why did Margo initially mention the downed plane was an AN-26?
The earliest tweet mentioning an AN-26 was sent at 16:30 by a user named @ua_ridna_vilna (but at the time his name was @vladicvp):
@HuSnizhne сбили самолет АН 26 под. Ольховчик Шахтерск
@HuSnizhne AN 26 aircraft shot down under. Olkhovchyk Shakhtarsk
Already at 16:24 the same user had tweeted:
#sayszello под г. Шахтерск п. Ольховчик сбит самолет скорей всего ВСУ.
#sayszello near the town of Shakhtarsk, village of Olkhovchyk a plane was shot down, most likely AFU.
[Olkhochyk is a suburb at the northeast of Shakhtarsk (48.0643143, 38.5231948), as mentioned at Wikimapia.
ВСУ is the abbreviation for Вооружённые силы Украины, Armed Forces of Ukraine, hence translated as AFU.]
At 16:32 he tweets once more, but now expressing some caution on whether it is an AN-26:
@vladicvp Сбили предположительно транспортный самолет АН-26
@vladicvp Presumably shot down a transport plane AN-26
At 16:36 there’s a – now removed tweet – by a user named @saysZello, who had the habit of listening to Zello and tweeting about the news he heard there.
(This tweet was copied elsewhere too, e.g. here, or repeated).
The text says:
Downed freighter or attack aircraft AFU. It fell near Torez, behind mine 3-bis, a parachutist seen #zellosnizhne
Very early on there had already been mention of an AN-26 on Zello. In a Zello conversation on the “Donetsk People’s Republic” channel, a man tells he saw the plane falling and that this had happened 2-3 minutes before. The YouTube video presenting this Zello recording provides subtitles that are not really adequate, but user @Sl0zhny was so kind to provide a transcription of these lines:
Он летал над Торезом. Сбили прямо надо мной. Он пошёл пикировать в район Квартала. Я именно видел самолёт. Чётко видел, это Ан-26. Сейчас дым стоит, капец какой.
It was flying over Torez. (It) was shot down straight over me. It began nosediving towards Quartal area. For certain I saw a plane. (I) clearly saw it was An-26. Now there is a heavy smoke.
In the YouTube video this fragment is found at 00:39 The first part of the Zello conversation presented in that video comes from this original Zello archive. But that archive contains only 176 seconds of Zello fragment recordings from the DPR news channel, of which the cited fragment has a timestamp of 16:24:30. The last fragment in this archive has a timestamp of 16:28. A total amount of almost 3 minutes of recorded conversation fragments were spoken in between 13:23 and 13:28, which means there are gaps in between. The source files of the rest of the conversation presented in the video are unknown to me; they might as well come from a different channel. In any case: it is obvious that the time duration of the video is not continuous and therefore not synchronous with the passing of “real time”.
Later on in the video, at 07:42, someone says: “A person from Torez just told it fell around ‘Progress mine’ area”. This fragment is no part of the aforementioned Zello archive. Therefore it cannot be given a reliable timestamp. Possibly this specific fragment stems from after 13:35. An indication to that is the mention of a YouTube video titled “В Торезе сбили самолет”. This occurs at 06:57 in the video. That video was first referred to at 16:34 (see Appendix 1). Therefore this fragment of the Zello conversation likely is from around that time or ...continue
On Twitter there wasn’t any mention of the Progress mine before 16:37, when Margo published her post. So, that bit of information may have been picked up by Margo from Zello, but it may have come from other sources just as well. Besides: “beyond the ‘Progress’ mine” is no more than a description, roughly pointing to the location, as there were other descriptions alike.
Likewise, this Zello conversation may have been the source for the tweet by @ua_ridna_vilna cited above. But – again – an AN-26 may have been mentioned in an early VKontakte comment or a now deleted earlier tweet just as well. Moreover, people may have exchanged information by means of personal messaging systems and telephone calls too.
Also, on the 17th the AN-26 downed on July 14th was still fresh in memory, especially since reports about two pilots found dead were published in the early afternoon of the 17th (e.g. in tweets here and here as well as in news articles like this or this).
In addition, there were news reports about the possible exchange of the crew members of that AN-26 that had been caught alive (e.g. in tweets here and here).
To those who witnessed the fall from some distance, a larger type of aircraft may have come to mind first, hence the AN-26 or more general a freighter plane was mentioned on social media. Given the strong sound of the exploding fuel tanks – which was heard clearly in Torez and Snizhne at approximately 12 km’s from the crash site, but also in other places at similar distances – and the huge amount of black smoke, people may also have assumed this had to be a larger airplane, like a freighter, instead of a fighter jet. Given the dimensions of a Boeing 777 an association with an IL-76 would have been more appropriate, but this type of aircraft was not mentioned at all on Twitter.
Thus an AN-26 or “a transport plane” in general was mentioned – but doubts were uttered as well:
@tohub @azmbog АН-26 укропы запретили же вылеты. Может что-то другое? Что там ещё у них осталось летающее?
@tohub @azmbog AN-26 Dill banned the flights. Maybe something else? What more do they have left to fly?
[укропы, “dill”, is a pejorative for “Ukrainians”]
@tombreadley зачем транспортники там летают?
@tombreadley why transporters fly there?
@anabenas @WowihaY @saysZello да не верю что кому то хватило ума опять грузовой туда отправить
@anabenas @WowihaY @saysZello but I do not believe that someone was smart enough to send the cargo again
@tombreadley неясно пока что это точно был ан 26.
@tombreadley not clear yet it definitely was an 26.
In brief, it is impossible to determine what source Margo had for mentioning an AN-26. It may have been mentioned on a Zello channel or in social media postings. She may as well have been informed by contacts within militia circles, but there’s no direct evidence to that.
The separatists may have been expecting an AN-26 though. On July 17th, at 13:13, user vadim-lvv posted this message at the forum:
Пишут что из Винницы опять идёт сплошной поток транспортников, уходит самолёт раз 15 минут, точно такой же был перед 13 числом и 1-2 июля. Причём сегодня в дополнение к Ан-ам летает и Ил-76.
They write that from Vinnytsia there is a continuous stream of transport airplanes again, planes take off every 15 minutes, the same intensity of flights was before 13th and July 1st-2nd. Today, in addition to multiple An, the Il-76 is flying.
[The headquarters of the Ukrainian Air Force is seated in Vinnytsia, but the 456 Transport Aviation Brigade is based at Havryshivka Vinnytsia International Airport as well, holding 5 AN-26 planes.]
Was this information input to the DPR’s intelligence, signalling that a freighter plane might be sent towards the ATO zone? Were the men escorting the Buk, who had arrived at Snizhne shortly before 13.00, informed on this, perhaps urging them to install the vehicle at an appropriate location?
Later that day, around 14:15, it was reported elsewhere (also here) that transport planes from Vinnytsia flew in the direction of Odessa.
On June 10th, 2015, Novaya Gazeta published an interview with Vadim Lukashevich, an aviation expert, in which he claimed that on July 17th an AN-26 with paratroopers was supposed to fly. The flight was cancelled at the last moment.
Lukashevich claims to have a source who told him, that in May 2014 the SBU came to the conclusion that there were spies operating at Ukrainian airfields. His source said that on July 17 a transport AN-26 with Ukrainian paratroopers was supposed to fly at the ATO zone. An agent of the separatists sent a text message saying “Мы вылетаем” (“We are departing”).
That message was intercepted, after which the agent was immediately taken – and the flight of the An-26 was virtually abolished in a few minutes prior to departure.
Lukashevich admits he cannot prove this narrative, as he cannot reveal his source, but he argues that the first reports of the separatists and the news media mentioning an AN-26 can be explained from this. Lukashevich’s theory is built on several assumptions and therefore speculative. Early news reports on the downed plane were (indirectly) based on the Strelkov_info posts, which in turn were based on the Margo-Donetsk post. As described: Margo may have picked up mention of an AN-26 from Zello, ...continue
There is some proof to this scenario: the arrest of a flight attendant, Roman S., at Dnipropetrovsk airport was already reported on July 18th, e.g. here and here. Roman S. was an employee of the Роза ветров (“Windrose”) airlines, owned by Igor Kolomoiskyi, at the time Governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast.
Also a militia witness that went from Nikishyne to the cockpit crash site at Rozsypne mentioned they were looking for paratroopers. (See my post on the arrival of the separatists at the crash sites).
Lukashevich further argues that an Antonov flying at 5 km height with 450 km/hour, coming from the same direction, will show a similar angular velocity as a Boeing flying twice as high at double speed. This would have evoked confirmation bias on the side of the Buk crew, waiting for the target announced, subsequently skipping verification procedures, after which a fatal mistake was easily made.
The argument that Margo was informed on the downing of an AN-26 from within militia circles might be considered plausible, because of the phrasing of the second sentence she wrote:
Предупреждали же – не летать в “нашем небе”. [smiley]
They were warned already – not to fly in “our sky” [smiley]
With the second sentence the reporting of a news event ends and a position statement is given. The point of view taken, given the phrasing, is that of the separatists: we warned them, don’t fly in our sky! But, there’s also a touch of irony (or sarcasm) given the quotes around “our sky” and the smiley added.
So, is this Margo making a statement on behalf of herself, adding a personal comment to the event reported, or is she rephrasing a statement from a source within the militia, from whom she heard the news? Both interpretations seem arguable from the text itself.
Most of Margo’s posts at the ‘antiques forum’ are of a descriptive nature (e.g. here or here). But sometimes she includes a personal comment (e.g. here), adding a personal touch. Given the quotes around “our sky” and the smiley added this second sentence certainly has a personal tone of voice.
But, that smiley was left out in the final version of the second Strelkov_post, which gave a certain twist to the tone of the statement copied.
Hence, when the media noticed the Strelkov_info post after it became known that a passenger plane had been downed, it was perceived as a formal position statement, without a scent of irony.
The third sentence
The third sentence of Margo’s post ends with a reference to a YouTube video:
А вот и видео-подтверждение очередного “птичкопада”.
Here is a video confirmation of the latest “bird drop”.
Could this third sentence already have been posted at 16:37, or was it added some time later?
If the video link had been provided at 16:37 already, it would most likely have been cited in the first Strelkov_info post. Also, @tohub might have included it in his 16:39 tweet. That wasn’t the case.
Can we deduce when the video link was added?
The video Margo’s linking to was published at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48YlDSVFVMI
Its precise timestamp is unknown, alas, and the video has been removed for long.
This video was referred to for the first time at 16:34 by a Twitter user who hardly had any followers. User @netserg may have made the video himself or he may have been in contact with the maker, since it was released only 14 minutes after MH17 was hit. The link to this video came into circulation on social media after 16:39, when a few communities on VKontakte started referring to it. Therefore it is most likely that Margo added her third sentence with the link to the video some time after 16:39.
That the line with the video link was added by Margo is confirmed by a post from user Alexxander on a forum at www.glav.su at 16:50.
It first cites an earlier message on that forum from 16:43 by a user named Cheen, now deleted, but the cited fragment is given nonetheless.
Next Alexxander comments that a video is added:
Цитата: Cheen от 17.07.2014 17:43:08
с антиквара: В районе Тореза только что сбили Ан-26, валяется где-то за шахтой “Прогресс”. Предупреждали же- не летать в “нашем небе”
Заглянул к ним по вашей наводке, а там и еще интересней:
А вот и видео- подтверждение очередного “птичкопада”
[below the text the video is linked]
Quote: Cheen on 07/17/2014 17:43:08
with antiquarian: Near Torez an An-26 was just shot down, it’s lying somewhere beyond the “Progress” mine. They were warned already – not to fly in “our sky”
Looked thereto on your tip and there is even more interesting:
Here is a video confirmation of the latest “bird drop”.
[below the text the video is linked]
A message at another forum points to the addition as well. At 16:47 user Renat Faliev cites the first line from Margo’s post and then mentions the video with the url as in Margo’s post. Thus we may conclude that the third sentence with the video link was added in between 16:43 and 16:47.
Also, both Cheen (as cited in Alexxander’s post) and Faliev are quoting the first line of Margo’s post: that line still goes without the phrase “вроде бы”, but by then Snizhne had been replaced by Torez. This means that at 16:43 when Cheen quoted the first line, the first line had already been edited.
(For further details on the publication history of the video, see Appendix 1).
The fourth and fifth sentence
Just like the third sentence, the fourth and fifth are preceded by an empty line. This may indicate that these sentences were added later.
But there’s more that can shed a light on how Margo’s post must have developed. There’s a second tweet by @tohub, sent at 17:01:
“Птичка упала за террикон, жилой сектор не зацепила. Мирные люди не пострадали” http://youtu.be/48YlDSVFVMI #Торез #Снежное
“The bird fell beyond the slag heap, it did not damage the residential sector. Civilians were not hurt” http://youtu.be/48YlDSVFVMI #Тоrez #Snizhne
Here @tohub literally quotes the fourth and fifth sentence of Margo’s post. He also adds the link to the video which was mentioned at the end of the third sentence in Margo’s post.
Again @tohub uses quotation marks, this time at the beginning ànd end. Probably @tohub checked on the forum again just before 17:00 and noticed the new content added to Margo’s post: the video ànd the information about the local situation at the crash location.
Regarding the contents of these two sentences: Margo does not name any specific locations, so it remains unknown where exactly “beyond the ‘Progress’ mine” the plane had fallen. Nonetheless she delivers a statement about the situation about “the residential sector” and the “civilians” living there.
The location of the crash site was discussed on social media immediately after the downing. For example, a thread in the community “Overheard in Torez” on VKontakte, shows several people accurately locating where the plane must have fallen, within minutes!
Some of them mention they live on the western outskirts of Torez, in a flat, so they had an overview of the area.
At 16:22 Alexander Vasilyev states: только что сбили его (“just shot it down”).
Within the same minute user Artyom Novak writes: “Ааааааа на рассыпной это!!!” (“Aaaaaaa this [is] at Rozsypne!!!”)
Given the timestamp he had just witnessed the cockpit section falling down near Rozsypne.
A minute later he comments: Катапультнулся недалеко ([The pilot] ejected not far away).
At 16:23 Alexander says it must be near Grabovo: как на грабово ехать (“near the road to Grabovo”).
Given the timestamp of his comment Alexander just saw the main part of the fuselage falling near Grabovo.
A little later Artyom publishes a photo made at 16:26 and then he writes: 2 катапультнулись возле дома! (“Two [people] ejected near the house!”)
After this there is some speculation about Rozsypne and other locations. At 16:34 Anya Karpenko states it is in Grabovo, which is also mentioned at 16:37 by Anastasia Yangol.
At 16:39 Nikita Gluschenko confirms the plane fell near the ‘old farm’ in Grabovo and at 16:42 she explains she is in Grabovo. (The ‘old farm’ most likely refers to the poultry farm south of Grabovo).
At 16:52 Olga Ilyushova mentions there’s a corpse lying at Rozsypne. Soon after she mentions “pilot”. She may have heard this from other villagers, as there had already been locals visiting the cockpit crash site at that time (see the video from Rozsypne, in my post on the arrival of the separatists at the crash sites).
At 16:54 Artyom Novak writes:
Короче 2 самолета упали, 2 пилота катапультнулись. самолеты упали в грабово в поле, есть видео пилотов летящих
In short 2 planes crashed, 2 pilots were ejected. the aircraft went down in a field at Grabovo, there is a video of pilots dropping
The video mentioned by Artyom may have been this one or another video showing white ‘strips’ falling down. One of these video’s – or a similar one – may have been published earlier and/or circulated through personal messaging.
In the first video the camera zooms in and white ‘strips’ falling down are visible.
From a greater distance this could have been perceived as parachutists descending. In fact these were textile rolls, loaded in the forward and aft cargo compartment (see p. 58 and p. 161 of the DSB main report). The DSB main report on p. 161 states: “In site 4 [the area surrounding the poultry farm at Grabovo, AG] several textile rolls were identified on satellite imagery and were, later on, recovered from the site.”
Asked one or two (planes), at 16:56 Artyom answers: Подбили на сауровке (“Was hit near Saurivka”).
Saurivka (47.906369, 38.756048) is a small village, south of Saur-Mogila (and thus also south of Snizhne).
But, as @Lena_from_Kiev pointed out to me, сауровке may also refer to Авиаплощадка Сауровка, a small air strip and platform, to the southeast of Chervonyi Zhovten (47.956713, 38.746133, marked on Wikimapia), which is very close to the alleged Buk launch site!
Thirdly, сауровке might also be a reference to the Saur-Mogila hill, dominating the surrounding area.
Artyom’s line can be translated as “was hit” (or “knocked”) near, but just as well as “on” or “at” the location mentioned. However, it is obvious that MH17 wasn’t hit there.
Maybe Artyom assumed the plane had been hit there, as there were anti-aircraft missiles (Manpads) at Saur-Mogila held by the militia stationed there. It may also be that he was just repeating hearsay.
Immediately after he states: Еще 1 летит (“1 more is flying”).
Perhaps Artyom saw another airliner flying over, high in the sky. Since it was already 16:56 his remark cannot concern the falling of debris of MH17.
This thread clearly demonstrates that people on the outskirts of Torez assumed there were two planes crashing, where in fact it concerned the cockpit section fuselage and the main body of the Boeing falling at different locations.
Even some of the villagers at Grabovo initially thought of two planes, since there were two sites burning: one at the entrance of the village and the second further down the road.
In the early video released by Associated Press, villagers are seen at the entrance of the village, shortly after the crash, discussing whether it was one or two planes:
1:07 [Another man] From which direction?
1:10 [Camera man] Oh, crap.
1:13 [Man] It fell further, over there. So there were two of them.
1:15 [Woman] No, one.
1:15 [Man] Not it was one.
1:15 [Another man] One.
1:15 [Another woman] One.
Given the distance in between, it is understandable that people at Rozsypne initially also may have thought of two planes as well: while the first bodies fell out of the sky into the fields near their village an explosion was heard from Grabovo, as was told to Vice News on July 18th by an inhabitant of Rozsypne, at 2:02 in the video:
“It all started with the plane humming. Then, there was an explosion. Things started falling. There was a big black cloud in that direction, towards Grabovo. The wings and the main part of the plane probably exploded. But here, bodies started falling from the sky. On roofs and in gardens.”
Immediately after the crash there were several early reports hinting at the location of the fallen plane:
At 16:26 by the SouthEast News community:
Самолет упал за Рассыпной. Парашютист. Черный дым
The plane fell beyond Rozsypne. Parachutist. Black smoke
At 16:34 someone tweets a link referring to the (separatist) MilitaryMaps website, providing the coördinates 48.0894014,38.5783477. That geolocation is quite close, just above the ‘Progress’ mine and under Rivne, which is adjacent to Rozsypne and Grabovo.
At 16:38 the SouthEast News community posts a map with the alleged crash site encircled pretty accurately:
At 16:40 someone refers to Rozsypne again:
Знакомые сепарасты звонили. Чуть ли не отбивают чечётку. Говорят что в #торез в районе рассыпной #террористы сбили самолёт. Инфа уточняется
Acquainted separatist called. Almost beat off a tap dance. They say that in #Torez in the area of Rozsypne #terrorists downed a plane. This information is preliminary, to be clarified.
At 16:43 the outskirts of Hrabovo are mentioned by @COV_Novorossia. @COV_novorossia is a pro-separatist account held by the “Центр Оперативного Взаимодействия Канал Zello – Новороссия Первый оперативный” (Center [of] operational interaction channel Zello – Novorossia first operational), which also has a VKontakte community.
At 16:44 Petropavlivka is mentioned for the first time, at 16:46 it’s mentioned again, also here.
At 16:47 Rozsypne is mentioned once more and repeated at 16:49:
Сообщают сепараты. Поселок Рассыпное недалеко от Тореза, сбит самолет!
Reported by separatists. Rozsypne village near Torez, shot down the plane!
At 16:48 the separatists’ Military Maps website provides the location very accurately in this tweet, giving coördinates of a spot near Rivne, close to Grabovo and Rozsypne. The coördinates presented earlier in the 16:34 tweet linking to that website had now been adjusted a bit to the north:
СНЕЖНОЕ ☆ СБИТ АН-26 ⇢ Упал за шахтой ПРОГРЕСС @MilitaryMaps / 2014-07-17
Snizhne ☆ shot down AN-26 ⇢ fell beyond mine PROGRESS @MilitaryMaps / 2014-07-17
Presenting these tweets and VKontakte threads might suggest that this information was more or less common knowledge. This certainly is not the case!
Actually the messages presenting accurate locations are but a few compared to a vast amount of tweets or comments that provide less accurate descriptions like “over Shakhtarsk”, “near Torez”, “beyond the Progress mine”, “behind Mine 3bis”, “near the forest”, etc.
This means that relatively few people were well informed in the first hour after the plane was downed.
The question is: how was Margo able to provide statements on the situation at Grabovo (or Rozsypne), where the major parts of the plane fell? How could she know that ‘the residential sector’ had not been hit, or that ‘civilians’ had not been hurt? Was it a wild guess, or an unfounded effort to make a comforting statement? Or did she receive information from within the militia?
More specific information about the exact situation at the villages came about around 17:00, but still very scarce and limited in detail:
#ZelloТорез Говорят упал в районе птицефермы #Грабово Туда несутся сепоры
#ZelloTorez said [the plane] fell near the poultry farm [at] #Grabovo Separatists are rushing there
На окраине поселка Грабово сбит наш самолет СУ, пилот катапультировался. Координаты – 48.14364,38.657713 #АТО #Луганск #Стоптеррор
On the outskirts of the village of Hrabove downed our Su, the pilot ejected. Coordinates 48.14364,38.657713 #ATO #Lugansk #Stopterror
Упал в р-не Грабово.При падении отвалился хвост.
Fell in the district Grabovo. In the fall the tail fell off.
To my knowledge there are no social media postings, on Twitter or VKontakte, that present any further details on the houses or villagers at Grabovo or Rozsypne before 17:00. In all the tweets and VKontakte threads from the first hour that I have seen, I have not found any specific references to the state of the buildings or the villagers themselves.
Given the information available it is not very plausible that Margo knew about the situation at Grabovo and Rozsypne from social media, since the information that came about before 17:04 (when Margo last edited her post) was very scarce and limited!
Her statement that the ‘residential sector’ had not been hit and that civilians had not been hurt by the plane crash could hardly be based on social media information available before 17:00, when she had added the fourth and fifth sentence to her post.
There may have been talk on this on Zello, but apparently that wasn’t posted about on social media then.
(Disclaimer: of course there may be more material, not yet uncovered or unknown to me – especially on VKontakte, since there are many, many communities which simply cannot all be researched. Besides, many tweets, VKontakte posts and forum posts may have been deleted afterwards!).
The alternative would be that she had received information from locals, directly or via-via contacts. But at Grabovo there was no electricity and people were busy taking care of their own situation, as can be seen from early videos, preventing hay catching fire. And after some time many went out to take a look at the different locations where debris and bodies fell – so this also seems less plausible given the short time span.
Besides, the information given in Margo’s post isn’t correct: there was some damage to the houses, bodies and debris had fallen on the street, onto houses, into gardens and – at Rozsypne – a victim’s body had fallen through a roof. If Margo had been in contact with locals at Grabovo or Rozsypne she would have heard at least something about these occurences.
Therefore the most plausible explanations are that either she made an assumption or she had received some information from sources within militia.
By combining several sources I determined that the first unit of separatists arrived at Grabovo in between 16:45-16:55 approximately – see my post on this topic. The footage that separatists made at the Grabovo crash sites shows that several phone calls were made. Shortly before 17:00 separatists had just started investigating both ‘burn sites’ at Grabovo and were to discover what plane exactly had fallen.
Therefore it is reasonable to assume that Margo could have made inquiries at one or more contacts within militia circles shortly before 17:00 and based these sentences on what she had heard from them. At that time this information could not have been very specific, given the short time span after the arrival. Possibly Margo at that time only heard that the wreckage had not fallen on the village buildings and that the locals (therefore) had not been hurt.
However, it may also be that Margo only assumed that the residential sector had not been hit and no civilians had been hurt, given the contents of the video she had linked to in her post. In that video several bystanders’ voices can be heard, commenting on the events. At 0:26 and 0:56 someone is mentioning that the residential area was not far off from where the plane fell, implying that it could have been far worse.
From this Margo may have guessed that the residential sector had not been hit and, thus, that civilians had not been hurt.
These bystanders’ remarks can be checked on these versions with English subtitles, here and here.
However, these subtitles are not complete. At 0:52-0:53 a male voice says, chuckling:
Не зря привезли, да?
[it was] not delivered for nothing, right?
The person speaking most likely alludes to the Buk transferred that afternoon.
The sixth sentence
The last line of Margo’s post concerns a second plane downed:
А также еще есть информация о втором сбитом самолете, вроде бы Су.
There is also information about a second downed airplane, apparently a Su
Given its placement (after an empty line) and its phrasing it appears to be another separate statement added. It was the last bit of information added to the post, when it was edited to its final version at 17:04. This is also the most plausible moment that Margo added the “, вроде бы” phrase to her first sentence: “apparently an AN-26”, meaning that doubts had arisen to what plane exactly had been downed.
In the time frame before 17:04, when Margo’s post was made final, the confusion only concerned what type of plane had beeen downed. As discussed earlier most tweets and VKontakte posts mention an AN-26 or “a freighter plane” or simply “a plane”. A Su or a fighter jet is mentioned less frequent and ìf it is mentioned, then it is always as the plane that was downed.
Some messages imply it might be an attack aircraft, or a bomber jet:
Снежное: самолет пролетел и грохот. То ли бомбанул что-то, то ли упал
Snizhne: a plane flying and thunder. Either it bombed something or it crashed
ПРЕДПОЛОЖИТЕЛЬНОЕ МЕСТО ПАДЕНИЯ САМОЛЕТА. ДО ЭТОГО УСПЕЛ ПРОИЗВЕСТИ ПУСК РАКЕТ.
PRESUMPTIVE PLANE CRASH SITE. PRIOR TO THAT HAD TIME TO LAUNCH MISSILES.
Most likely, from a distance, debris falling from the tearing plane were perceived as missiles.
17.07 17.50 Сбитый самолет, Сушка, одна половина слева от дороги, вторая по другую сторону. Два трупа рядом в поле. Ждите видео, фото.
17.07 17.50 Downed plane, Shushka, one half on the left side of the road, the other on the other side. The two bodies next to the field. Wait for the video, photos.
This last tweet is from a Twitter account that belongs to @COV_Novorossia, a pro-separatist community mentioned before, which maintains a Zello channel. The message was also posted at their VKontakte community, at the same time.
It could be that Margo picked up this piece of information on that Zello channel, or from their post on VKontakte or Twitter, a minute before she last edited her post.
The message correctly describes that there were debris lying on either side of the road at Grabovo, which are being attributed to a Su-25. This corresponds with the beginning of the transcript of the footage made by separatists themselves at the Grabovo crash site, when they are looking for the remains of a Sukhoi. In the video version edited by the BBC, as of 3:10 militia men can be seen looking at wreckage on both sides of the road (the BBC version changed the sequence of the original footage, see my post on the arrival at the crash sites).
Given the timestamp of 17:50 (16:50 EEST) the COV_Novorossia community must have received some information from militia at the crash site at Grabovo shortly after their arrival.
The transcript says:
This is another plane, I think.
It’s the fighter.
Commander: There, part of engine.
Other: Yes, I think.
Cmdr: Yes, it’s the Sukhoi.
(Phone): Call the headquarters, the town, he will take you there.
Background: There’s coins here.
Cmdr: There’s five people who jumped.
Background: This is the Sukhoi lying around.
Background: You know how many bodies out there?
Cmdr: They say the Sukhoi (fighter) brought down the civilian plane and ours brought down the fighter.
Background: But where is the Sukhoi?
There it is … it’s the passenger plane.
Background: It’s just fragments.
It’s also interesting to note that, the @COV_novorossia message cited would later be copied by others, but by then the Su-25 was changed into an AN-26, e.g. here.
In addition there were several messages regarding one or more pilots that had jumped by parachute, which also may imply a fighter jet like a SU (but of course other types of aircraft as well).
Early on one or more parachutists were reported and a hunt was started:
at 16:28 at the Southeast News community on VKontakte:
Народ из Тореза и Шахтерска собираются на место падения ловить парашютиста
People from Torez and Shakhtarsk are going to the crash site to catch the parachutist
at 16:37 the aforementioned separatists’ COV_novorossia community tweets (note the exact time of the downing):
17.07 17.20 Торез Авиаудар густой дым в районе мебельной фабрик. Самолет упал. Летчика ловят
17.07 17.20 Torez Airstrike thick smoke in the area of furniture factories. The plane crashed. Hunting for the pilot
@YevhenS самолет походу транспортник упал за террикон ш прогресс , 10 парашютов
@YevhenS Freighter aircraft fell beyond Progress mine’ slagheap, 10 parachutes seen
@Mayasha_Alex @WowihaY вроде по зелло сказали, что спрыгнули
@Mayasha_Alex @WowihaY Like at Zello said that jumped
На окраине поселка Грабово сбит наш самолет СУ, пилот катапультировался. Координаты – 48.14364,38.657713 #АТО #Луганск #Стоптеррор
yandex On the outskirts of the village of Hrabove downed our SU, the pilot ejected. Coordinates 48.14364,38.657713 #ATO #Lugansk #Stopterror
One, two or even ten parachutes were reported in these tweets. Most likely, the sources of these observations saw the textile rolls mentioned earlier, or pieces of debris drifting on the wind, descending relatively slowly, and perceived these to be parachutes.
Later on it was written that two pilots had died. This probably was concluded from the COV_Novorossia message at 17:03, quoted above: “The two bodies next to the field.”
In the course of conversations on Zello and on social media, earlier reports about the bodies of two pilots of the AN-26 downed on the 14th which had been reported on in the morning of the 17th may have gotten mixed up with talk on the recent downing as well.
At 17:14 @Wowihay concludes that 2 pilots had died:
По поводу пилотов, упавшего самолета. К сожалению, вести не утешительные. два 200-х 🙁 #Торез
With regard to the pilots, the plane crashed. Unfortunately, the news is not comforting. two 200-x 🙁 # Torez
[A 200th is a military code for a dead person]
But then some users realize that a Su-25 is manned by one pilot, e.g. at 17:23:
@HuSnizhne если 2 пилота – это не су-25, может су-24. вообще говорят про ан еще один. а в снежное сегодня бук тащили из донецка
@HuSnizhne If 2 pilots – this is not the Su-25, Su-24 can. general talk about another AN. and in Snizhne today a Buk was dragged from Donetsk
and at 17:28:
@HuSnizhne Это не сушка, если пилотов – 2ое. 24-ка и 25-ка – одноместные.
@HuSnizhne This is not a Shushka, if there are 2 pilots. Su-24 and Su-25 are single-seaters.
(According to Wikipedia the Su-25 is a one-seat jet indeed, although there is a variant with two seats. The Su-24 is a two-seat jet.)
To summarize: before 17:00 there is not one social media post describing a fighter jet attacking. If a Su-25 or a fighter jet in general is mentioned, it is in the context of the plane being downed.
As described in a separate post on the arrival of the separatists at the Grabovo crash sites, the militia men had been told that two planes had crashed there. The transcript of the complete footage made by separatists themselves says: “They say the Sukhoi (fighter) brought down the civilian plane and ours brought down the fighter”. Probably that narrative was leaked to other people as well. After 17:00 some messages appear on social media mentioning two planes were downed:
18-05. Пишут очевидцы: около 17-30 в п.Рассыпное (г.Торез) упало два самолета, есть жертвы среди мирного населения.
18-05. Eyewitnesses wrote: around 17-30 in village of Rozsypne (district of Torez) two airplanes fell, there are victims among civilians.
This tweet also contains a map and a photo. This message was repeated elsewhere too, e.g. here at the SouthEast News community at 18:35.
Clearly the reporting of two planes downed led to an even greater confusion:
@MOR2537 @HuSnizhne СУ или АН 26?
@MOR2537 @HuSnizhne SU or AN 26?
Сушки раньше не сбивали. Ощущение, что это очередная “братская помощь”.
Previously Sushka had not shot down. I have the feeling, that this is the latest “fraternal aid”.
#Ukraine There is confusion atm what type of plane was shotdown near #Torez. Some sources said AN-26 others Su-25. #Donbas
@korniyana1 @HuSnizhne этiо не СУ походу а АН?
@korniyana1 @HuSnizhne It turns out that it’s not a Su but an An?
Пилоты самолета СУ, сбитого сегодня вблизи Тореза погибли. (ЗЕЛЛО)
Pilots of SU aircraft, shot down today near Torez died. (Zello)
And at 17:50 this user answers to someone else:
@Lotyhc @DombasUA Они уже сами запутались, но говорят, что 2 пилота в 200 метрах от самолета лежат, мертвые, а самолет СУ. Его переспросили
@Lotyhc @DombasUA They are themselves confused, but they say, that 2 pilots lie in 200 meters from the plane, dead, and plane Su. He was questioned again
When a photo of a Dutch victim’s passport starts to circulate and people are looking up the Linked-in profile of that person, it is dawning what has really happened.
The first post showing that passport photo I found was on a forum at 17:09. It shows a photo of a Dutch passenger, Jolette Nuesink, that soon was distributed further on Twitter and VKontakte:
at 17:12 there’s a sarcastic tweet referring to a humanitarian aid flight:
.@Yurich24081980 @holmogorov @KSyomin Опять сбили гуманитарный самолёт Он хотел привезти зефирки и рошенки для жителей Донбасса, аВыНедайоте!
.@Yurich24081980 @holmogorov @KSyomin Again an airplane with humanitarian aid was shot down. It wanted to deliver marshmallows and “roshenkis” for residents of Donbass, but you don’t allow to!
[Roshenkis = chocolates from Poroshenko’s chocolate manufacturing company, Roshen]
@MOR2537 Чотто люди плохо мне-говорят в самолете медикаменты были,гуманитарка иностранцы?походу…
@MOR2537 I feel bad. There are talks that there were medicines, humanitary aid, foreigners in the airplane, as it turns out.
[This tweet also contains the passport photo]
at 17:30 @HuShizhne replies:
@MOR2537 Что это за хрень? Какая гуманитарка над Торезом???
@MOR2537 What is this nonsense? What kind of humanitarian plane over Torez???
at 17:42 someone else answers with a link to the Linked-in profile of the victim:
@korniyana1 @HuSnizhne @MOR2537 Вот что выдало про владельца этого паспорта,что на фото http://www.linkedin.com/pub/dir/Jolette/Nuesink …
@korniyana1 @HuSnizhne @MOR2537 That’s what is provided about the owner of that passport photo http://www.linkedin.com/pub/dir/Jolette/Nuesink …
Almost a year after mrs. Nuesink’s brother-in-law recalls the events of that afternoon:
A journalist from an international press agency in broken Dutch asked if he could speak to mrs. Nuesink. (…) The journalist said that her passport had been found in Ukraine.
The photograph of the passport of Jolette Nuesink that went all over the world after the crash, through Twitter, was one of the first pieces of concrete evidence that the 298 passengers of MH17 were killed. Neighbors, who had been called by Duth NOS news because of the circulating passport photo, flocked to his house.
At 17:31 comments to a VKontakte post speak of a passenger plane. The second comment, by Antosha Shishkov, at 17:33:
Говорят что в грабово сбили пассажирский самолет
They say that a passenger plane was shot down in Grabovo
And after someone named Pavel states this to be a lie, another user, Sergey Gagarin at 17:37 reacts: Павел, говорит свидетель (“Pavel, a witness says so”).
At 17:38 he adds: говори что видел труппы детей и женщин ? (“He says he saw the bodies of children and women ?”)
In brief: messages about a fighter jet attacking were not published before 17:00. If there is mention of a fighter jet, it is referred to as the plane downed. Most social media posts, however, assumed a freighter plane, specifically the AN-26.
Posts discussing two planes downed, a Su-25 and an AN-26, surfaced after 17:00. As described in my post on the arrival of the separatists, that narrative was made up around that time, which is corroborated by these social media posts. Shortly after Margo’s final edit of her post the first messages pointing to a passenger plane would surface.
Given the details presented above, the edit history of Margo’s post most likely was like this:
|16:37||First and second sentence, or possibly only first part of second sentence.
First sentence mentions Snizhne.
First sentence only mentions “сбили Ан-26”.
|@tohub tweet 16:39; 1st Strelkov_info post and tweet, both at 16:41|
|16:41-16:43||First sentence edited: Snizhne replaced by Torez. Possibly second part of second sentence added.||Deleted post by user Cheen 16:43 quoted by Alexxander at glav.su at 16:50|
|16:43-16:47||Third sentence with video link added.||User Renat Faliev at twower.live.journal at 16:47|
|16:47-17:00||Fourth and fifth sentence concerning the state of “residential sector” and “civilians”||@tohub tweet at 17:01|
|17:01-17:04||Sixth sentence on second downed plane, possibly SU; addition of “самолет, вроде бы” (“airplane, apparently”) to the AN-26||[final version Margo post]|
However, when a certain text detail is not mentioned by a source, this doesn’t mean this detail was not present in the text at that time. Taking this into consideration, Margo’s post must have been edited at least three times after her initial version was posted:
– 1st: replacement of Snizhne with Torez
– 2nd: it is possible that the fourth and fifth sentence were added together with the third sentence with the video link, at some time in between 16:43 and 16:47.
– 3rd: adding of the last sentence, and addition of “самолет, вроде бы” after 17:00.
“the story of the downed aircraft is very murky” – recovering the posts that were removed from Strelkov’s thread at the ‘antiques forum’
In the previous sections a screenshot of the removed Margo post, numbered #3161, posted at 16:37 and finalized at 17:04, has already been presented. Below it is a post by a user called Tiger1313, numbered #3162, posted at 17:12 EEST.
Above it is a post by LeoT, which bears the number #3160. The latter post is still on the forum, the other two were deleted in the early evening of the 17th.
Until now no other posts that were deleted that afternoon and early eve were recovered. Both Fitzpatrick and Reban did not conduct any further research on this. In this part I will present the posts I managed to recover. With the reconstruction of the thread, as it was proceeding at that time, an accurate account can be provided of how the turmoil around the Strelkov_info post and its source was dealt with at Strelkov’s forum thread.
(The most important sources used are described in Appendix 2.)
Before presenting the ‘lost posts’ it is helpful to take a look at how the thread at the ‘antiques forum’ looks like as it was captured on July 18th, 2014, at the Internet Archive, as well as in the current version of the thread.
The first post mentioned in this listing is the one by Margo, published at 16:08, which was used as input to a part of the first Strelkov_info post, as discussed in part 1:
|User||Time of posting
|Number on July 18th||Current number|
In her fourth article on the Strelkov_posts, of July 17th, 2015, Catherine Fitzpatrick compared the number from Margo’s 16:37 EEST post (#3161) from the screenshot above with the current number of LeoT’s post of 16:36 (#3153). From this she concluded that nine posts have gone missing. This obviously is a mistake.
As can be seen in the table: the sequence of the posts is exactly the same as on July 18th, 2014, but the values of the sequence numbers have changed. This is due to the fact that in between July 18th and now six older posts (preceding Margo’s 16:08 post) have been deleted, thus diminishing these values.
Besides, LeoT’s post has a timestamp of 16:36. The screenshot of Margo’s post shows 16:37 as the time of creation. In theory it might have been plausible that one or two other posts were contributed within the same minute, but not nine. (By the way, her count of nine is mistaken too, because she writes Margo’s post had number #3162, where the screenshot above clearly shows #3161).
In addition: the Internet archive capture of the page, at 19:26 on July 17th, 2014 also shows LeoT’s post, followed by those of Margo and Tiger1313.
The post following on Margo’s was made by a user named Tiger1313. Here is a screenshot of this post, in which the video capture is fully visible, as well as an accompanying text:
The text says:
столб дыма от сбитого только что укролёта.
a column of smoke from the just downed Ukroplane.
The video shown here is a YouTube copy of a video that was posted at VKontakte originally. This copy was posted on YouTube at 17:02 (see Appendix 1 for details). It was also the second video linked to in the second Strelkov_info post.
After Tiger1313’s post there was another post, of which no screenshot remains. Who posted it, is unknown as well. However, we do have the text as well as its url as it was cited on a forum at the Yaplakal website. This url contains a post id: 2186316. On the antikvariat forum site each post has a sequence number as presented on screen, but it also has a record number which is permanent. The closest post id to this id is the one by user Cobra at 17:41: Cobra’s post has the id 2186313. From this we can derive that the post must have been published (very) shortly after 17:41.
The text as given on the Yaplakal website by user nom90 at 18:03 on July 17th, 2014, reads as follows:
Это уже интересно. От одного из местных, с учётом вот этого сообщения, с форума, где отписывается Стрелков:
“Звонили родственники из пос. Рассыпная : из сбитого самолета выпало более десятка трупов азиатского вида( вьетнамцы или китайцы) без одежды. Обломки и трупы упали на частный сектор поселка , и возле больницы. Люди в военной форме собирают и увозят трупы. ”
P.S. Видимо деза, сообщение убрано, мои извинения.
Это сообщение отредактировал nom90 – 17.07.2014 – 18:06
This is interesting. From one of the local(s), taking into account that this message is from a forum where Strelkov writes responses:
“Phoned relatives from the village of Rozsypne: from the downed aircraft dropped more than a dozen bodies of Asian appearance (Vietnamese or Chinese) without clothes. The wreckage and the bodies fell to the private sector of the village, and near the hospital. People in uniform collected the corpses and have taken them away.”
P.S. Apparently misinformation, the message is removed, my apologies.
This post has been edited by nom90 – 7.17.2014 – 18:06
From his comment we can conclude that very shortly after user nom90 had cited the text on Yaplakal, he discovered that the post had already been deleted from the ‘antiques forum’, as mentioned in his post scriptum at 18:06.
The contents of this post were also copied by the EuroMaydan group on Facebook at 18:10. After that several people referred to it, on Facebook as well as on Twitter, e.g. here and here.
Another reference to this post was made at 20:16 in this tweet:
@igiss Подтверждаю. Был пост о том, что из самолета масса людей и частей тел падала на частный сектор.
@igiss Confirm. There was a post, [saying] that a lot of people and body parts fell out of the plane on the private sector.
The next three posts were made shortly after. They have only survived on a screenshot posted by user Valvod on a site called jeep-forum.ru (another url is this one). (Valvod also is the original source for the screenshot of Margo and Tiger1313’s posts, shown at the beginning of this section.)
The file of this screenshot has a timestamp of 18:11 on July 17th, 2014. The screenshot itself shows a timestamp for Margo’s post that reads “3 minutes ago” and the one by Bonehead (Балбес) says “1 minute ago”. These time indications at the forum are not absolutely accurate, as I have discovered: they may deviate with 1-2 minutes. In any case, we can be certain that Margo’s post was published near 18:08 and Bonehead’s near 18:10.
On top of this screen is an image with a link to a tweet. With a little luck I could identify the tweet: it was sent by the Novorossia community at 17:46:
Укролёт больше уже не полетит
Ukroplane no longer flies
Beneath the text of that tweet the photo of plane wreckage is shown:
However, this picture shows the wreckage of the AN-26 that was downed on July 14th, as published by Ria Novosti. On VKontakte this photo circulated as well.
Whether this post on the forum contained the text of that tweet or that it contained other text remains unknown.
The texts of Margo’s and Bonehead’s posts read as follows:
Margo (Posted 3 minutes ago)
История со сбитым самолетом очень мутная. люди на месте разбираются. но ситуация довольно странная, вроде бы как связана с гражданским бортом.
как будет достоверная информация – сообщу
The story of the downed aircraft is very murky. People on the spot investigate. But the situation is rather strange, seemingly as if a civil flight is involved
When reliable information comes available – I’ll report
Bonehead (Балбес) (Posted 1 minute ago)
боинг малаэийских авиалиний разбипся на украине
Malaysian Airlines Boeing crashed in Ukraine
The contents of the last message confirm the time of posting: the news about the crash of a Boeing 777 from Malaysia Airlines spread as of 17:50, when Espreso.tv brought the news as the first:
Soon after several tweets spread the news, e.g. at 17:55:
@saysZello есть и такая инфа. пасажирский, в сети есть фото голанского паспорта
@saysZello there is such info. passenger, on the internet (a) photo of (a) Dutch passport
This tweet contains a reference to the Espreso.tv article of 17:50.
And at the same time:
@ProtectUkraine Сепары сбили уже чужой малазийский самолет?????
@ProtectUkraine Now separatists shot down foreign Malaysian airplane?????
Initially the news was unconfirmed. A news report by Interfax at 18:03 mentions “a source in aviation circles”, but at that time it was not yet confirmed by a second source.
Slowly the news started spreading, through news sites and on social media.
The first major news outlets started reporting after 18:00, e.g. Reuters Russia on Twitter at 18:07 and Tass at 18:09.
At 18:15 Interfax Ukraine gave the news as confirmed by a second source, in capitals:
АВИАЛАЙНЕР, СЛЕДОВАВШИЙ ИЗ АМСТЕРДАМА В КУАЛА-ЛУМПУР, ИСЧЕЗ С РАДАРОВ НА ВЫСОТЕ 10 ТЫС М – ИСТОЧНИК В УКРАИНСКИХ ПРАВООХРАНИТЕЛЬНЫХ ОРГАНАХ
AIRLINER, EN ROUTE FROM AMSTERDAM TO KUALA LUMPUR, DISAPPEARED FROM RADAR AT AN ALTITUDE OF 10 THOUSAND METERS – A SOURCE IN THE UKRAINIAN LAW ENFORCEMENT BODIES
This was immediately followed by BBC Russia, within the same minute:
Малайзийский авиалайнер из Амстердама разбился на границе России и Украины. На борту находились 280 пассажиров.
Malaysian airliner from Amsterdam crashed on the border of Russia and Ukraine. On board were 280 passengers.
After the news had been brought by Ukrainian and Russian media, news outlets in other countries followed. E.g. at 18:12 Dutch newspaper NRC and at 18:15 Dutch public service broadcaster NOS.
At 18:27 @BBCBreaking and at 18:34 Reuters (international):
#BREAKING: Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser says 280 passengers, 15 crew dead in Malaysian airliner crash: Interfax
And within the same minute once more by Reuters:
#BREAKING: Malaysian plane was brought down by a ground-to-air missile: Interior Ministry adviser, quoted by Interfax
This means that shortly after 18:00 the users at Strelkov’s forum thread became informed on a Malaysian Boeing 777 being downed, as is evidenced by Bonehead’s post. Therefore, the posts by Margo-Donetsk and Bonehead were indeed placed at 18:08 and 18:10 or perhaps just a little earlier, and the screenshot was made shortly after.
The next screenshot shows three posts of which the first and last are not fully captured. The first post is by an administrator, Eugene1981, at 17:53, with the number #3164. The middle one by Severt, also administrator of the forum, has number #3165, at 18:17. The third post is captured only partially. It was written by user gvzrky, numbered #3166, at 18:24.
Given the timestamps it is obvious that Eugene1981’s message had preceded the ones by Margo and Bonehead, but when this screenshot was made these had both been deleted already.
These three messages read as follows:
Eugene1981 at 17:53 EEST
ПРИМЕЧАНИЕ ДЛЯ ПОЛЬЗОВАТЕЛЕЙ
если вы считаете, что размещенная в теме информация недостоверна, не надо об этом писать “чушь” и проч, В теме достаточно пожаловаться на сообщение нажав специальную кнопку внизу
NOTE TO USERS
if you think that the information placed in the thread is unreliable, it is not necessary to indite it as “nonsense” and so on, within the thread it is sufficient to complain about the message by pressing a special button at the bottom
Severt at 18:17
посты боинга в этой теме отправляются в бан
хотите обсуждать открывайте новую
posts on Boeing will be banned from this thread
[if you] want to discuss open a new [thread]
gvzrky at 18:24
The screenshot with these three posts, was also published by user Valvod (also this url). His post, containing the screenshot, was made at 18:36. The filestamp of the screenshot image file is 18:36 as well.
Above it Valvod wrote:
Все быстренько подчистили
All quickly cleaned up
Eugene1981’s post at 17:53 demonstrates that after Margo’s and Tiger1313’s early posts on the downed AN-26 more news was seeping through and a few more posts must have been added before 17:53. The post on the “bodies of Asian appearance” that were collected and taken away by men in uniform, placed shortly after 17:41, must have been a ‘breakpoint’ for those attending the forum at the time. It became clear that the downed plane could not be a Ukrainian freighter plane. Probably other users commented on these posts in disbelief or with indignation, which forced administrator Eugene1981 to provide some ‘guidance’ at 17:53.
After the posts by Margo at 18:08 and Bonehead at 18:10 it was obvious that the downed plane was the Malaysian Boeing that was breaking the news at that very moment. Shortly after all earlier messages on the downed plane were deleted – except one.
Administrator Severt’s 18:17 message points to ‘decontamination’ of the thread and prohibiting any new posts on the topic. However, somehow Tiger1313’s post from 17:12 still lasted for a while, as it was captured by the Internet Archive at 19:26. This is also confirmed by this tweet, sent at 20:03:
На форуме “Гиркина-Стрелкова” запрещено писать о боинге, а видео пока осталось
“люди падали с неба на частный сектор”
The forum “Girkin-Strelkov” forbidden to write about Boeing, and the video is left
“People were falling from the sky to the private sector”
The last sentence refers to the post by the unknown user cited above. This tweet also contains a screenshot showing only the 17:12 post by Tiger1313, which was already presented above. On that screenshot the sequence number of this post is #3161, where earlier it had the number #3162, in the screenshot with both Margo’s and Tiger1313’s posts. This confirms that by the time Twitter user @Sensei_SunSay made that screenshot, Margo’s earlier post (at 16:37) had been deleted.
The next message does not contain any other time indication than “Posted one minute ago”.
A screenshot was probably made by the author of the post, but that’s just a guess. Unfortunately the screenshot is cut off at the right, so a sequence number is missing as well.
Text of message:
Отпраапэно минуту наэад
<– Margo-Donetsk (17 июль 2014 – 17.37) писал:
что детка-за боинг не хочется отвечать? сразу потёрла героическое сообщение о сбитии “ан 26” ? ))
Sent a minute ago
<– Margo-Donetsk (17 July 2014 – 17:37) wrote:
so baby does not want to account for the Boeing? immediately you erased the heroic message about the downing of “AN-26” ? ))
Obviously, this user is nagging Margo for the removal of her 16:37 post. Most likely it was posted shortly after the removal of the posts on the downed plane and Severt had posted his warning, or was about to.
The next post is an interesting one: it comes from user El Murid and it was posted at 20:54. El Murid is the alias of Anatoly E. Nesmiyan. He is a well-known blogger, living in Saint Petersburg, and regularly writing about the war in East Ukraine (http://el-murid.livejournal.com/).
The same message was also captured from a mobile screen, at 21:39:
The latter screenshot once more confirms that the previous posts regarding the downed plane had been removed: the two text lines on top stem from Cobra’s 17:41 message, followed by Severt’s warning at 18:17. By the time this screenshot was made Tiger1313’s post had been deleted as well.
At 20:54 El Murid writes:
Коллеги в Донецке и окрестностях. У кого есть связь с Котычем, передайте – нужно, чтобы он взглянул прямо сейчас в личку здесь. Срочно.
Админы. Плиз. Минут через дцать удалите.
Colleagues in Donetsk and the surrounding area. Anyone who has communication with Kotych, pass on to him – required, I need him to look at personal message in this forum. It’s urgent.
Admins. Pls. Remove this after some minutes.
According to his VKontakte account, El Murid (“Эль Мюрид”), at the time was living in Moscow. Now he lives in Saint Petersburg. However, when he registered at the forum site on June 4th, 2014, he entered “SPb” as his place of residence. His current Facebook and Twitter accounts also mention Saint Petersburg.
Apparently Strelkov and El Murid were acquainted in some way. From a post on September 7th their relationship is evidenced. At that time Strelkov had already resigned. On September 7th Kotych writes:
Анатолий Эль-Мюрид пишет то, что считает нужным, но находится в контакте со мной.
Anatoly El Murid writes what he thinks is right, but is in contact with me.
A post at El Murid’s VKontakte page also shows they were in contact.
El Murid hardly ever posted at Strelkov’s forum thread, so his ‘appearance’ at that very moment is quite remarkable. Possibly El Murid was brought forward that evening, because of his authority within the separatists movement, to press those aquainted with Strelkov to contact him, as he apparenty could not be reached. The question is: by whom? Could it be that ‘Moscow’ had approached El Murid to intermediate in contacting Strelkov? In any case: his ‘appearance’ is rather odd. Just for the record: almost a year after El Murid wrote that there was not only a Buk TELAR but also a TEL (reloader) present on July 17th. According to him both were provided from Russia a week before July 17th. However, he doesn’t provide any evidence.
Only 6 minutes after El Murid’s post the Strelkov_info VKontakte community published a statement, at 21:00:
17.07.14. От Администрации паблика.
Информация о сбитии самолета была взята с форума, где общаются местные жители и ополченцы. На момент публикации все пользователи думали, что был сбит очередной АН-26 киевских нацистов и пост о сбитии, продублированный нами, уже во всю гулял по многим пабликам движения антимайдана. Информацию об уничтожении самолета Игорь Иванович Стрелков не подтверждал. Напоминаем, что в нашем паблике сообщения Стрелкова И.И. публикуются со специальным баннером “СТРЕЛКОВ СООБЩАЕТ”. Все остальные сообщения мы собираем из открытых источников, а также из дневников ополченцев и очевидцев событий. САМ СТРЕЛКОВ ПИШЕТ ТОЛЬКО НА ОДНОМ ЕДИНСТВЕННОМ ФОРУМЕ, мы же только дублируем сюда его сообщения, ВСЕГДА сопровождая их СПЕЦИАЛЬНЫМ БАНЕРОМ. Если банера нет, то такое сообщение НЕ от Стрелкова, а из открытых источников (либо от ополченцев, либо от очевидцев, либо от журналистов).
07.17.14. From Public Administration.
!!! WARNING !!!
Information about the downing of the plane was taken from the forum, frequented by locals and the militia. At the time of publication all users thought, that another Kiev Nazi’s AN-26 had been shot down and the message about the downing, replicated by us, was already spread on public antimaydan groups. Strelkov didn’t confirm info about the destruction of the aircraft. We remind you, that in our community messages from I.I. Strelkov are published with a special banner “STRELKOV REPORTS”. We gather all other messages from open sources, as well as from the blogs of militias and eyewitnesses of events. STRELKOV HIMSELF ONLY WRITES ON ONE FORUM, here we just duplicate his messages, ALWAYS accompanying them with a SPECIAL BANNER. If there is no banner, then the message is NOT from Strelkov, but from open sources (either from the militia, or from witnesses or from journalists).
Пояснение для УКРО-СМИ: мы фанаты Стрелкова. Сам же Стрелков пишет только на одном единственном форуме.
The explanation for UKRO-MSM: we’re fans of Strelkov. Strelkov himself wrote only on one forum.
This post at VKontakte was reposted many times and the warning message was also published by other communities and forums. Possibly the administrators of the Strelkov thread actively urged admins from these sites to remove traces of the posts and publish the warning text.
An interesting example is a thread about the conflict in East Ukraine at “Все Вместе” (“All together”), a forum site from… Kazakhstan!
At 21:43 EEST (00:43 ALMT on July 18th) Bad Santa (“Плохой Санта”), a user with the role of “insider”, publishes the full text of the warning.
After this user Budyonny responds by posting a screenshot of the second Strelkov_info post and user Megadeath (at the time of posting his alias was ‘Dr. Dick’) is nagging the admins commenting:
– at 22:11 (01:11 local time): Другой вопрос: где ан 26? С су сбитый под торезом (“Another question: where an 26? With su downed near torez?”)
– at 22:16 (01:16): Ан 26 походу вообще не существовало сегодня (“Apparently, the an 26 didn’t exist today.”)
– at 22:24 (01:24): Так мы верим свидетелям или нет? Ан 26 сбивал или нет? (“So we believe the witnesses or not? An 26 killed or not?”)
Next he (and other users) received a violation warning from the moderator (here and here).
Meanwhile, at the ‘antiques forum’, at 21:43, almost one hour after El Murid’s message, Severt posts a new message, as administrator of the forum thread:
The text says:
from the Administration
At the moment Igor Ivanovich Strelkov has not made any statements regarding the crash of the Malaysian Airlines Boeing. All messages published now in a variety of blogs and media allegedly made on behalf of Strelkov are fake.
This text was also copied by other sites, e.g. the “natural” Strelkov fan site icorpus.ru (now gone).
The next three posts at the forum thread, by users mesyats_iyul at 22:36, Asirisub at 00:50 and Kotych at 01:44 are still visible in the current version of the thread. Of these the first and latter concern the downed plane.
User mesyats_iyul is citing a news article from Ria Novosti in which Alexander Borodai is quoted saying that a truce can be agreed on with Kiev, for 2-3 days, to let international investigators in. That statement was also published on the website dnr.today (now gone).
To this, Strelkov, under his alias Kotych, comments at 01:44:
Боевые действия продолжаются по всему фронту. Место падения “Боинга” находится в глубоком тылу ополчения ДНР и никаких “гуманитарных перемирий” или “коридоров” для объективного расследования причин трагедии не требуется – комиссия может свободно прибыть туда и изучить место падения. Препятствовать ей никто не станет. Но и останавливать боевые действия против окруженной группировки противника нецелесообразно.
Fighting continues on all fronts. The crash site of the “Boeing” is located in the deep rear of the DPR militia and a “humanitarian truce” or “corridors” for an objective investigation into the causes of the tragedy are not required – the commission can freely come there and examine the place of incidence. No one will prevent her. But to stop the military operations against the encircled enemy factions is inappropriate.
Late at night a few users commented on Strelkov’s post as can be seen in a capture at the Internet Archive. These posts were removed the next morning.
At 02:15 user Alphaville responded:
Все правильно. WSJ пишет, что вроде как американская разведка установила, что самолет был сбит ракетой земля-воздух. Чья – пока неизвестно. Надеюсь, не ваша?
All right. WSJ [Wall Street Journal, AG] writes that apparently US intelligence has determined that the aircraft was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. Whose – is still unknown. Hopefully not yours?
Finally, at 04:33 in the morning, there is a post placed at another thread, by Lessa, a friend of Margo, in which she addresses Strelkov directly to check his personal messages:
Kotych, look at PM.. And forget that, um – liner! OK, it’s sad. Well, we’re all going to die. Some time. ))
P.S. But not now.) [emoticon with man with cap, stroking his moustache and placing his thumb up]
One might expect the story ends here, but that’s not the case…
About an hour after Severt’s warning, that posts on ‘the Boeing’ would be banned, his suggestion “want to discuss open a new” was followed: at 19:38 user mica68 opened a new thread at the forum site named “боинг сбит” (“Boeing shot down”).
This thread has been completely removed by now. The last page capture from this thread was made on August 21st, 2014. By then the thread contained 96 pages with almost 2400 items. Most of these pages were captured by the Internet Archive. At archive.is a few pages were captured too, mostly the same as on the Internet Archive. I assume that the thread was removed shortly after August 21st, since no new captures were made after that date.
The first posts on this thread are of no interest here, but at 23:09, user Cobra responds to another user with these words:
Отсюда пошло, от пользователя Марго-Донецк в Сводках, чью голословную херню из твитов фейк “Стрелкова” в ВК перепечатал. С него цензор статейку запостил, оф укролица подтянулись и понеслось ..))
It started with user Margo-Donetsk in the reports [thread], whose unfounded garbage was reprinted as posts from “Strelkov” at VKontakte. With this Censor[.net] published an article, Ukrainian officials followed up and turmoil began..))
At another thread on the forum he had made similar remarks much earlier already. There, at 19:10, user Garnet mentions Margo’s post about the AN-26:
пост Марго с темы сводок о сбитом АН-26 уже перевели на мову и цитируют в эспрессо, как сообщение от Стрелкова . Пасутся видимо здесь((
Margo’s message about downed An-26 in reports thread has been translated to Ukrainian and quoted by espreso [www.espreso.tv, AG] as a message from Strelkov. Apparently, they browse here. ((
At 19:42 Cobra responds:
Пользователь Марго-Донецк вбросила инфу в теме “Сводки”, не соответстующую действительности, по-быстрому нарыв её из твитов от непроверенных людей. Потом из “Сводок” распространили по антимайданам, левым пабликам “Стрелкова” и уже цензор с должностными лицами киевской хунты цитируют следующее: “Лидер ‘ДНР’ Игорь Гиркин (Стрелков) взял на себя сбитый пассажирский ‘Боинг’ с 300 пассажирами на борту.”
Некоторым пользователям данного форума пора бы давно мозги включать, а не постить инфу от ОБС* в “Сводках” лишь бы быть “первыми”! Сколько могут модераторы об этом говорить..
The user Margo-Donetsk threw in into the “Reports” thread an untrue info hastily dug up from untrusted people’s tweets. Then it was spread among antimaydans, fake “Strelkov” sites. Now censor [censor.net.ua] and Kiev junta officials quote following: “The ‘DPR’ leader Igor Girkin (Strelkov) took responsibility for downed ‘Boeing’ with 300 passengers aboard”.
For some users of this forum it’s high time they would use their brains instead of posing rumours* in “Reports” just to be “the first”! How many times moderators need to repeat this…
[* Literally ОБС means “one grandmother said”, so: gossip, hearsay, rumour.]
Two hours later, at 01:13, Cobra responds to administrator Severt lamenting about the Strelkov_info posts at VKontakte, and again Cobra puts the blame on Margo:
началось ТУТ с Марго Донецк, копирующей идиотские твиты и постящей всю непроверенную чушь в Сводках.
It began HERE with Margo Donetsk, copying idiotic tweets and posting all the unverified crap in the Reports.
Ten minutes later, at 01:23, Margo responds:
Уважаемый, я хамить Вам не стану, меня родители не так воспитывали, но если Вы не в состоянии отличить копипаст, от реальных событий, произошедших в ту минуту, то это Ваша личная драма.
И будьте так любезны, ткните меня носом в мой копипаст, либо жду публичных извинений!
Dear, I will not be rude to you, my parents did not raise me so, but if you are not able to distinguish between copy-paste, from the real events, that occurred in that moment, it is your personal drama.
And be so kind, point out for me where I [allegedly] copy-pasted, or I’m waiting for a public apology!
After this Severt asks them to move their discussion to the personal messages, and Margo apologizes for demanding an apology in public.
Margo’s statement is an important one, as she denies having copied information from social media into her post. This implies she based her information on firsthand accounts or other primary sources.
Most likely the apology was not given, because a day later, at 00:08 on the 19th, in a reply to someone suggesting Margo deserves an apology, Cobra once more attacks Margo:
Так кому извиняться надо за дезу, которую подхватили укры с обвинением в адрес Стрелкова?
So who should be apologizing for the misinformation with indictment of Strelkov which Ukrainians picked up?
To this (as well as to some other earlier posts by other users) Margo reacts at 00:30:
Так, пока я делами занималась, диванные воины мне все косточки перемыли.
1. Вижу, тут кое-кто пытался меня оправдывать. Спасибо- не надо, я сама в состоянии ответить за свои слова.
2. Кобра – (приходится закрыть глаза на свое воспитание и ответить тебе, так как ты меня уже реально задолбал) – Если ты, чучело, сидишь на диване и уже наверняка отлежал себе пролежни, то мне некогда заниматься полосканием твоей персоны, а смогла бы. Словарного запаса хватит!
Поясняю для особо одаренных! В небе Новороссии летают только укроповские летуны, ранее они и сбивались. Соответственно, если сбивают самолет, то никто бы не смог в тот момент подумать, что это “какой-то не тот” самолет. Даже мысли бы ни у кого не возникло! Сообщение я удалила сразу же, как только человек прибыл на место и понял, что тут что-то не так, а это около 20 минут.
А теперь иди читай книги: “Идиот” Достоевского или “Недоросль” Фонвизина! Твоя литература, стопудофф!!!!
Модераторы, прошу прощения, но конкретно задрал 21 страницу полоскать мою скромную персону.
So, while I was doing something useful, the sofa warriors raked me over the coals. Comfortably seated?
Then let us begin.
1. I see someone here tried to justify me. Thank you – no need to, I take responsibility for my words.
2. Cobra (I have to close my eye on your upbringing and answer you, since you are already really freaking) – If you, scarecrow, sit on the couch and probably already [have] lain yourself bedsores, then I have no time to engage in rinsing your person, though I could. I have enough vocabulary for that!
I [will] explain to the gifted! In the Novorossian sky only Ukrainian flyers fly, previously they were brought down. Accordingly, if an aircraft [was] shot down, then no one could think at that moment that it was “some kind of wrong” aircraft. That thought would not have arisen to anyone! I have removed the post immediately, as soon as someone arrived at the scene and realized that there was something wrong, which was [after] about 20 minutes.
Now go read the book: “The Idiot” by Dostoyevsky or Fonvizin’s “The minor”! Your literature, definitely!!!!
Moderators, I beg your pardon, but he annoyed me to no end flapping for 21 pages about my modest person.
What’s important here are two statements:
1. Margo says she immediately removed the post, as soon as “someone” arrived at the crash site and concluded “something wrong”
2. According to Margo that “someone” arrived after approximately 20 minutes.
The first statement is not true. The screenshot showing Margo’s 16:37 post clearly shows that timestamp. The screenshot also shows the timestamp of Tiger1313’s message as posted at 17:12. On this forum a post displayed within an hour after publishing shows a time indication in minutes like “Posted xx minutes ago”, which is not the case here.
Besides: Margo had published a second post at around 18:08 in which she wrote that the story of the downed plane was “rather murky”, “as if a civil flight is involved”! That post was online for but a few minutes, so hardly anyone would know about it and therefore she doesn’t mention it.
Obviously, Margo is lying about the removal of both posts, concealing the real course of events at the forum.
Her statement regarding “20 minutes” matches with a statement from a photographer in an Anna News video and a statement by Strelkov himself on the 18th (see my post on the arrival of the separatists at the crash sites). At the time she knew separatists had arrived at the crash site, as demonstrated by her second post at 18:08, when she wrote: “People on the spot investigate”.
Most important is that both her posts of 16:37 (finished at 17:04) and 18:08 imply that Margo was in contact with militia people shortly after the separatists had arrived at the crash site.
Therefore, it’s reasonable to assume she received some information from one or more sources within militia circles (likely from Donetsk headquarters). Around 17:00 she heard something about a Su that was downed as well, so she added the sixth sentence to her 16:37 post accordingly. And at the same time she added the phrase “apparently” with regards to the AN-26, thereby weakening the statement about the AN-26, expressing uncertainty.
To her there had been no mention of a civilian plane, at that time. Her source possibly did not know the essentials and may have had limited knowledge, based on hearsay or “rumour has it”. But it may also be that Margo was deliberately kept in the dark by her contacts and was only told what her contact(s) wanted to share at that exact time, shortly after the arrival.
It is also obvious that an hour later, when she wrote her second post, she still had not been informed fully:
The story of the downed aircraft is very murky. People on the spot investigate. But the situation is rather strange, seemingly as if a civil flight is involved
As discussed in my article on the arrival of the separatists at the Grabovo crash sites, a transcript of a video made by separatists there shows that the commander says “they” – most likely ‘headquarters’ at Donetsk – have told him that a Su-25 downed the civilian plane and that the separatists brought down the Su-25. Presumably that story was told to others as well. As discussed in the previous section of this report, social media postings about two planes downed corroborate that this narrative surfaced after 17:00.
Margo may have been unaware of all this, but the last line of her post contributed to that narrative – especially when it was copied by Strelkov_info not long after she last edited her post.
Moreover, when the editor at Strelkov_info left out the restrictive word “apparently” and also removed the smiley, her second sentence was transformed into a position statement, easily attributable to the ‘great commander’ himself: They were warned already – not to fly in “our sky”!
In summary, here’s an overview of the posts that are known to have been placed at the forum that afternoon and early evening:
|User – time (EEST)||Contents||Current status|
finalized at 17:04
|AN-26 downed near Torez, video link, residential sector not hit, civilians not affected, second plane downed possibly SU||deleted|
|Video of the downed plane||deleted|
shortly after 17:41
|More than a dozen bodies of Asian appearance dropped from downed aircraft. People in uniform collecting corpses and taking them away||deleted|
|Guidance on conduct at thread, in response to comments on previous post regarding downed plane||deleted|
|unknown user||Post containing photo of wreckage (in reality wreckage of AN-26 on July 14th), referring to a tweet from Novorussia community.
Only partially known, rest of contents unknown
|People on the spot investigatie. Possibly a civil flight involved||deleted|
|Malaysian Airlines Boeing crashed in Ukraine||deleted|
some time before or shortly after 18:17
|Nagging at Margo-Donetsk for removal of 16:37 post||deleted|
|Ban on posts concerning downed Boeing||deleted|
|Reference on closure of air space above ATO zone||deleted|
|Urgent, pressing call to anyone in contact with Strelkov to urge him to read the personal messages at the forum||deleted|
|Statement from administration that Strelkov has not made any statements on the Malaysian Airlines Boeing. All messages in blogs and media made on behalf of Stelkov are fake||#3156|
|Mentions news about a truce proposed by Alexander Borodai||#3157|
|Also mentions the truce proposed.||deleted|
|Response to mesyats_iyul in which he disapproves of a truce because of military operations against encircled Ukrainian military factions||#3159|
|Comments that Ukraine hasn’t bombed the crash site to “cover their tracks”||deleted|
|Praises Strelkov on his statement regarding the truce||deleted|
|Mentions news about US intelligence stating MH17 was downed with a surface-to-air missile, asking “Hopefully not yours?”||deleted|
From the previous parts we can conclude:
- Margo’s 16:37 post was edited several times, each time adding new bits of information. At first she mentioned Snizhne, but soon it was altered into Torez. Initially she just mentioned an AN-26 was downed, but in the end she weakened that statement into “apparently an AN-26”.
- Some of the information in her post may have been collected from social media and Zello, but it is also possible she received information by means of other channels. An AN-26 was already mentioned on Zello at 16:24. Also the “Progress” mine was mentioned there.
- Margo’s post is not very specific with regards to the location(s) where the plane fell. On social media Grabovo, Rozsypne and Petropavlivka were mentioned, but most tweets and comments were giving locations like “near Torez”, “behind the forest” and “beyond mine 3-bis”. In hindsight it’s relatively easy to retrieve sources mentioning specific locations. At the time information was scattered, contradicting and mostly imprecise, which is quite obvious in the ‘natural’ chaos of the aftermath of an event like this.
- The sentences about the situation at the locations where the plane had fallen, were either based on assumptions derived from the video Margo linked to or they were based on very early reports from the crash site. Either way, her statements that the “residential sector” had not been hit and that “civilians were not hurt” were inadequate.
- Some of the information in her post most likely came from (a) source(s) within militia circles. Especially the line on a second plane downed, “apparently” a Sukhoi, corresponds with the narrative emerging at that same time, in which a Su-25 had downed MH17.
- Margo knew that separatists had arrived at the crash site approximately 20 minutes after the crash and that they were ‘investigating’ there. But from her contacts she was only partially informed. In her second post she writes that seemingly a “civilian flight is involved”. That second post was published at around 18:08, which is when the news about MH17 had started to spread. After her first post was finalized at 17:04 on social media a few messages indicated that a civilian plane had been downed. She may have noticed some of these or heard about it in another way. In any case, Margo wasn’t informed completely by sources within the militia.
- After it became known that a Malaysian passenger plane had been downed, the administrator at Strelkov’s “Military reports” thread immediately ‘cleansed’ that thread from any reference to the downing. Evidently any association between Strelkov and the downed plane had to be removed.
- Initially Strelkov_info published a literal copy of Margo’s post, at 17:16, but shortly afterwards it was edited, leaving out the restrictive phrase “apparently” with regards to the AN-26 mentioned. Also the smiley after the second line (“They were warned already – not to fly in ‘our sky’”) was removed. These edits accidentally facilitated the interpretation that the message came from Strelkov himself, transforming the second line into a position statement.
- Only after the 17:16 post at Strelkov_info had been presented all over the news, stating that Strelkov had claimed responsibility of the downing, that post was deleted from the community’s pages around 19:40. Evidently the editor(s) at Strelkov_info had been negligent, maintaining the post for one and a half hour after the news about MH17 had spread.
Moreover, the first line from the first Strelkov_info post, at 16:41, only mentioning a plane was downed, was removed even later, after 21.00.
All in all, Margo was just another pawn, unintentially reporting the ‘facts’ as she perceived them to be, within the context of what was known at that time.
She most likely picked up some pieces of information from within militia circles, but she was not informed accurately on what had actually happened.
In the aftermath both the administrator of Strelkov’s “military reports” thread and Margo showed their frustration.
Already on July 18th, at 01:08, administrator Severt wrote:
так и думал что эта школота с вконтакта подставит ополченцов. с их неуемным желанием везде поспеть.
матерных слов не хватает. ВСЕ бл… журналисты ссылаются на эту группу как на официальное заявление стрелкова.
Всем урок – нехер постить то, что сам не видел.
Еще потом обижаются на банны.
I suspected as much these “schoolchildren” [vulgar form] from VKontakte would put it over on militia. with their unrestrained desire to always keep up with everything.
obscene words fail me. ALL damn… journalists refer to this group as to the official statement of Strelkov.
A lesson to all: don’t post what you did not see.
Yet afterwards (they) resent being banned…
On July 19th Margo publishes a post about the situation at Donetsk airport in which she showed her frustration on what had happened to her forum post on the 17th:
В районе аэропорта громыхает очень сильно. Долбят так,что стены трясутся. Страшно. 🙁
Плохой солдат, видимо, устроил украм жаркую ночь.
Господи, помоги нашим ребятам!
(журналюги! предупреждаю! еще раз мои слова на свои паблики скопипастите, приду и испорчу страничку.)
In the vicinity of the airport it rumbles very much. They batter so strong that the walls are shaking. Scary. 🙁
“Bad soldier”, apparently, arranged a hot night for the Ukrainians.
Lord, help our guys!
(journalists!* warning! If you copy-paste my words on your webpages again, I’ll come and ruin your webpage.)
[* She uses a pejorative word for journalists]
After this post Margo did not publish any new messages at Strelkov’s “military reports” thread.
Was this her decision or was she ordered not to post there anymore? She did continue writing posts at another thread, named “West versus East Ukraine”, which was not associated with Strelkov.
With regards to Strelkov’s accountability for the posts on the downed plane: contrary to what Catherine Fitzpatrick assumed there is no trace whatsoever that Strelkov posted about it.
Actually, Strelkov did post two messages on the forum that afternoon, about the situation at Donetsk and the cauldron near Marynivka, at 14:23 and 15:53. The last message was posted only 27 minutes before MH17 was downed.
As to Hector Reban’s statement that the removal of both posts at Strelkov_info should not be regarded as an act to hide the truth: the 17:16 Strelkov_info post was removed very late, after it had been presented in the media as Strelkov claiming to have downed the plane. But the ‘decontamination’ of the thread at the ‘antiques forum’ clearly shows Strelkov, or rather the administrator acting on his behalf, rigorously deleted every trace that could associate Strelkov’s thread to the downed Boeing. One might reason, that they might as well have maintained Margo’s post, just to prove it hadn’t been Strelkov’s writing, but some civilian’s. Given the rush and the rigour with which all these posts were deleted, it very much looks like they were trying to cover up.
Appendix 1: Publication history of the two videos mentioned in the Strelkov_info post
Margo’s post at the ‘antiques forum’ links to the url of the YouTube video directly, whereas the second Strelkov_info post refers to two YouTube videos as they were embedded in video links on VKontakte. The first video mentioned in the second Strelkov_info post is the same as the one Margo’s is referring to in her post.
The second Strelkov_info post, however, links to a video link, posted by ‘Natalya Natalya’ at 17:13 EEST, titled: “07/17/2014 В Торезе сбили самолет” (In Torez downed plane). Her video post embedded the YouTube url https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48YlDSVFVMI.
The second video in the second Strelkov_info post was also embedded by Natalya Natalya, at 17:20. This video link embeds a second YouTube video, with the url https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhUkqs9CQ0w
Both YouTube videos have been removed. However, several copies were reposted.
The first video was most likely posted at YouTube at 16:34 already, or even a bit earlier. The first mention of the video, as far as I was able to retrieve, occurred on Twitter, at 13:34 UTC / 16:34 EEST by user @netserg:
It is evident that the title of the VKontakte embedded video post by Natalya Natalya quoted its original title, adding only the date “07/17/2014” as a prefix.
User @netserg lives in Torez and only very occassionaly sent a tweet at that time. It is plausible that he made the video or was closely connected to the maker. Given the short timespan between the downing of MH17 and the publication of the video this seems most probable.
At the time of writing he has only 4 followers. In July 2014 that may have been some more, but it is improbable that many people noticed his tweet immediately, unless they were searching for ‘Torez’ and/or ‘plane’.
The next tweet referring to the video, was sent 10 minutes later, at 16:44, and thus after Margo’s post was published at 16:37:
В Торезе Снежном сбили самолет: http://youtu.be/48YlDSVFVMI
In Torez Snizhne downed plane: http://youtu.be/48YlDSVFVMI
This user also names Snizhne in addition to Torez, probably because both names were mentioned in early reports on social media, but also because he was in Snizhne at the time. At 16:30 he already sent a tweet with a picture of the crash site, taken from a location in Snizhne. Also, in the days preceding and after the 17th he regularly tweeted observations on Snizhne, Torez and Saur-Mogila.
The next mention of the video occurred at 16:45. This @Novorussia2016 Twitter account has almost 60.000 followers, at the time of writing, so with this tweet the video suddenly reached a large audience.
At 16:46 the next reference is made on Twitter and at 16:47 the video has also been noticed on a forum, by user Renat Faliev, who mentions the video, but is also repeating the first line of Margo’s post, where Snizhne had been replaced by Torez.
On Vkontakte the YouTube video was embedded on VKontakte quite fast. At 16:39 the ‘Novorossia first operational community’, with over approximately 1.200 followers at that time, posted the video link. Next, at 16:40 it was embedded in a post by the SouthEast News community, with almost 3.000 members and at 16:42 by the Luhansk24 community, with over 9.000 participants at that time.
After these initial posts on Twitter and VKontakte the video was referred to many more times that day; it was also uploaded again on Vkontakte and YouTube several times. An early copy was uploaded to YouTube already at 16:51.
What’s relevant here is that its dissemination started as of 16:39, which is after Margo’s post was initially published.
As mentioned in part 2, Margo added the third sentence with the video link at some time between 16:43 and 16:47.
Amnesty International’s YouTube Dataviewer does not provide any information on the first video, but for this second video it returns 14:02:31 UTC / 17:02:31 EEST as the time it was posted, even though the video itself has been removed. The title of that video post was: “В районе Снежного сбили самолёт 17.07.2014” (In the region of Snizhne downed aircraft 17.07.2014). The description repeats the title and further mentions a VKontakte community and a Facebook group, both named “О наболевшем!” (“About our sores!”) as publishers. In the screenshot of the second Strelkov_info post at Vkontakte presented in part I the watermark of the “о наболевшем” group is visible.
The earliest (still findable) reference to this video was made at 17:03 by user Rasmusen Ras. At exactly the same time he also tweeted about the video. Given that the alias of his Twitter account also mentions “о наболевшем” this user must be a member of that VK community. They posted the video on Facebook too, at 17:04.
It may have been published at their Vkontakte community as well, but if so, then it was removed very shortly after. A capture of that community page on July 18th, at 04:02 UTC, does not show the video posted there, where it does show two other videos posted.
One of these two other videos visible is a repost of the first video already described above, but with a different url. This repost by the “о наболевшем” community of that video was uploaded at 13:53 UTC already, and the post at the community was made subsequently at 16:54. That post is still visible there.
In the first comment to this video post user Egor Yakovlev links to the second video as it had been posted on Vkontakte.
His video post has a time stamp of 16:47.
Nevertheless, there’s another video post, made five minutes earlier, at 16:42, by Sasha Zhuk.
A minute later this one was referred to by the ‘Novorossia community’ and at 16:45 by the ‘News Novorossia’ community. This latter version was shown in the ‘notorious’ LifeNews 18:00 news broadcast.
In all three cases the title is the same as with Yakovlev: “сбили только что” (“just shot down”).
But there’s even a slightly older one, published within the same minute as Sasha Zhuk’s, posted by Nijamaddin Garaev, also titled “just show down”. This video post was referred to on Twitter by a ‘Novorossia’ account at 16:48.
This may very well be the very first posting of the video: its timestamp is 13:42:01 UTC, where the Zhuk version has a timestamp of 13:42:50 UTC. However, there could have been an earlier post, we have no trace of, because it is quite coincidental that both the Zhuk and the Garaev posts were made within the same minute, considering the time needed to upload a video. Both may have found the video elsewhere, hitherto unknown. Another option is that it was provided to them both by the maker.
What’s relevant here with regards to the second Strelkov_info post: that post referred to a video link by Natalya Natalya at 17:20 in which the YouTube version posted by “о наболевшем” of 17:02 was embedded. This video link was posted after the second Strelkov_info was published at 17:16 and thus was added later on.
Appendix 2 The recovered posts from forum-antikvariat.ru
Overview of sources, specifiying posts
All times given are in EEST, unless stated otherwise
|YapLakal Forum||JeepForum / Radikal.ru||JeepForum / Radikal.ru||JeepForum / Radikal.ru||Internet Archive (1)||Forum Zaporozhye|
|Time of posting:
Time of post editing:
|Timestamp of screenshot file:
|Timestamp of screenshot file:
|Timestamp of screenshot file:
|Time of capture:
|Time of posting:
Time of screenshot
|Unknown user, with id 2186316,
posted before 18:03, deleted
between 18:17 and 19:34
From the second column in the table above we can also deduce that there must have been one more post, which was posted after the post by the unknown user (with id 2186316) about “bodies of Asian appearance”, shortly after 17:41. That one would have had sequence number #3163 at that time. The extra, unknown post, would then be numbered #3164. This post most likely commented in a negative fashion on the post by the unknown user. After this Eugene1981 posted his ‘guidance’, which woud be number #3165. The next ones would be the ones by the unknown user, Margo and Bonehead, as shown in the second column, which were numbered #3166-#3168.
To keep an overview of all the posts concerned, the first column of the table below also mentions all previously deleted posts within brackets.
|Internet Archive (2)||Internet Archive
|Time of sending:
Time of screenshot
|Time of sending:
Time of screenshot
unknown, most likely 21:39
|Time of capture:
|Time of capture:
July 18th, 02:16
|Time of capture:
July 18th, 13:11
# not visible
# not visible
# not visible
# not visible
18 min. ago =
9 min. ago =
31 min. ago =
Sources in chronological order
YapLakal: http://www.yaplakal.com/forum28/st/75/topic861707.html?hl=#entry24964659 or http://www.yaplakal.com/forum28/st/75/topic861707.html
Timestamp of last edit of post: 18:06 EEST. It quotes an earlier message (a few pages earlier at the forum), stamped 17:31, see: http://www.yaplakal.com/forum28/st/0/topic861707.html?hl=#entry24963702
This message was posted at 18:03 and post edited at 18:06 EEST.
Jeep-Forum: http://jeep-forum.ru/forum/showthread.php?p=927991#post927991 or
http://jeep-forum.ru/forum/showthread.php?t=53162&page=350, posted at July 17th, 2014.
The url’s of the screenshots presented here are:
http://s020.radikal.ru/i704/1407/20/6fb02b01e636.jpg for post #3167 and #3168 by Margo-Donetsk / Bonehead [timestamp 15:11 UTC / 18:11 EEST]
http://s005.radikal.ru/i210/1407/18/7698cff3d4f1.jpg for post #3161 and #3162 by Margo-Donetsk / Tiger1313 [timestamp 15:26 UTC / 18:26 EEST]
http://s019.radikal.ru/i624/1407/17/69f7c4407813.jpg for posts #3164, #3165 and #3166 [timestamp 15:36 UTC / 18:36 EEST]
Internet Archive (1):
Time of capture: July 17th, 19:26
The url for the screenshot of the post by Kolyanchik is: https://web.archive.org/web/20140718162139/http://i7.pixs.ru/storage/0/2/5/3333333333_1098282_13022025.jpg
For time of posting see also current version: http://forum.zabor.zp.ua/forum/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=59875 )
Post mentions 19:34
On top of page it’s mentioned UTC+3, meaning the times shown are in EEST.
The screenshot of the second Strelkov_info post is still online in the current version. It has a timestamp of 16:03 UTC / 19:03 EEST.
Therefore the screenshot of Kolyanchik must have been made before the time of posting, 19:34 EEST
@Sensei_SunSay tweet, sent at 20:03:
Contains screenshots Tiger1313 #3161 at 17:12 and Severt #3164 at 18:17
Time of capture: on the forum messages are given a time indication like “xx minutes ago” when the post is placed less than an hour. If the message is placed an hour ago or earlier, it shows the exact timestamp.
– Tiger1313: probably in between 18:13 and 20:03
– Severt: probably in between 19:18 and 20:03
Both screenshots were probably made at the same time, so in between 19:18 and 20:03.
On the earlier screenshot showing both Margo’s en Tiger1313’s post the latter had number #3162
This means that:
– Margo’s 16:37 post, numbered #3161, was deleted before 18:17
– the Tiger1313 screenshot initially survived after the clean up before 18:17; it was deleted later on
@lennutrajektoor tweet, sent at 21:59: https://twitter.com/lennutrajektoor/status/489846788325928960
Contains screenshot from 21:39
Since it’s a mobile screen presentation, it doesn’t show the sequence numbers of the posts.
Internet Archive (2):
Time of capture: July 17th, 22:55
Internet Archive (3):
Time of capture: July 18th, 02:16
Internet Archive (4):
Time of capture: July 18th, 13:11
After the last mentioned capture on July 18th the Internet Archive captured this page a few more times on July 18th and 19th, but the page remained the same. Currently the page shows:
In addition to the primary sources mentioned above: some of the screenshots were also presented and/or discussed at other websites. The most important ones are:
TerraAnalytica.ru: http://forum.terraanalytica.ru/?app=single_post&p=125263 or http://forum.terraanalytica.ru/topic/14-rossiia-ukraina/page-3719
In a discussion user ИтЪбимбом (“Itbimbom”) posts the screenshot with Margo’s and Tiger1313’s posts, without mentioning the source (user Valvod on Jeep-Forum.ru), on July 30th, 2014.
In a discussion user Rurouni posts the screenshot with Margo’s and Tiger1313’s posts, without mentioning the source (user Valvod on Jeep-Forum.ru, see above), on October 24th, 2014. This discussion and the post by Rurouni with the screenshot was cited by Catherine Fitzgerald.
A cache copy of a thread on law.vl.ru, dated July 30th, 2014, presenting screenshot (from user Valvod) and discussing the Margo Donetsk 16:37 post.
Originally published on September 23rd, 2016
Notes [ + ]
|1.||↑||By means of the wall.getReposts function of Vkontakte’s Application Programming Interface (API) it’s possible to check whether a message has been reposted and also what the message looked like at the time of a certain repost. The first Strelkov_info post was reposted already two minutes later, at 16:43 EEST by user Vitaly Panasyuk, who commented:
The text as shown in this repost contains only the lines up to “это?!”
By means of the wall.getReposts function of the VKontakte API it’s also possible to detect the exact time of publishing. The Novorossiamedia post returns a Unix timestamp of 1405604518, which equals 13:41:58 UTC / 16:41:58 EEST. The Strelkov_info version has a Unix timestamp of 1405604479, corresponding with 13:41:19/16:41:19. This means that within 39 seconds the Strelkov_info was copied by the Novorossia community. It could be they were subscribed to notifications from the Strelkov_info community and immediately copied and published the post.
Some time after the first Strelkov_info post was published, it was edited to add extra information, resulting in the version captured by the Internet archive as presented above.
13:50 (MCK) From Uspenka, through Amvrosiivka towards Ilovais’k proceeded 5 IFV and 2 Urals with a gun towed in the direction of Novoivanivka. From time to time infrequent shelling of Luhansk.
(БМП stands for Боевая машина пехоты, Infantry fighting vechicle, and is therefore translated with IFV. A Ural is a military truck. Kam’yanobrids’kyi is a district in the north of Luhansk (short name: Kambrod), see Wikimapia; as to the location of Ekaterynivka (or Katernynivka), its earlier name was Yuvileine which is still used often, see Wikimapia also).
These two items added most likely stem from this source. That page only provides a timestamp for the page as a whole, in which these news bits are marked as updates to the main text and thus were added at a later time. However, these bits were published by other VKontakte communities separately as well, e.g. at the aforementioned Novorossiamedia community and at the SouthEast News community, both at 16:11.
|2.||↑||There is more evidence that the second Strelkov_info post initially was a literal copy of Margo’s post and that it even contained the smiley after the second sentence.|
First, there’s an article at pravda-tv.ru, which provides an overview of separatists’ news of the 17th. It includes the early version of the second Strelkov_info post. The phrase “17:50 (MSK) Posted by militia” clearly points to Strelkov_info being the source. Not only does it contain “вроде бы Ан-26”, the smiley was also copied.
A news article, which has a time stamp (in the page source code) of 17:39, refers to Strelkov_info explicitly and cites the second post with the first line including the “, вроде бы”. However, the smiley was left out here.
Another news article contains the earlier text version as well, with the smiley included. The main text of this article is about the downing of a Su-25 on the eve of the 16th. Beneath it the text of the second Strelkov_info post was copied. From the source code of this page we can tell it was published at 18:24 Moscow Time, thus 17:24 EEST, and that it was modified at 17:30. Most likely the text from the Strelkov_info post was added at 17:30.
And there’s even more evidence that the second Strelkov_info post initially contained a literal copy of the Margo post, but it’s a bit complicated…
At 16:53 the Novorossiamedia community on Vkontakte published this post:
Obviously this Novorossia post is literally copying the Margo post, as it includes the “, вроде бы” ànd the smiley as well!
|3.||↑||The footnote to the original publication of this report on September 23rd, 2016, mentioned: “According to some sources Petrovksy’s real name is Dubinsky – see here or here.” Earlier on I already pointed to a video where the real Petrovksy/Dubinsky is shown, in response to an article published on April 2nd, 2015 bij Dutch newspaper NRC, who presented false imagery of Petrovsky/Dubinsky). Since this report was originally published in September 2016 more evidence regarding the Dubinsky identity has been gathered. See e.g. Bellingcat’s publications, here and here.|
Early on July 19th, at 01:24, Dubinsky under his alias ‘Bad soldier’ published a post in which he commented on the video with intercepts that was released by the SBU on the 18th:
Margo responded to his post with a smiley.
Another user asks: “Sergey Nikolaevich, you just wanted to get onto the sanctions lists?
|4.||↑||An indication to that is the mention of a YouTube video titled “В Торезе сбили самолет”. This occurs at 06:57 in the video. That video was first referred to at 16:34 (see Appendix 1). Therefore this fragment of the Zello conversation likely is from around that time or a little later. Of course, in theory the video may have been posted elsewhere before, but that’s unknown – there are no references to an earlier video. It’s also unlikely given the short timespan after the fall of MH17.|
|5.||↑||Lukashevich’s theory is built on several assumptions and therefore speculative. Early news reports on the downed plane were (indirectly) based on the Strelkov_info posts, which in turn were based on the Margo-Donetsk post. As described: Margo may have picked up mention of an AN-26 from Zello, from social media, but it may also have come from (a) source(s) within militia circles. We don’t know: there is no direct evidence that mention of an AN-26 first came from separatist sources. Also, as quoted in part 3: Margo denies having copied information from social media.|
|6.||↑||Just for the record: almost a year after El Murid wrote that there was not only a Buk TELAR but also a TEL (reloader) present on July 17th. According to him both were provided from Russia a week before July 17th. However, he doesn’t provide any evidence.|