Media names chief suspect in downing of Boeing MH17 over Donbas

Investigators of The Insider, Bellingcat and the BBC have identified one of the key defendants in the case of the crash of the Malaysian Boeing 777 over Donbas. Journalists claim that a high-ranking FSB official under investigation of the International Investigation Team (JIT) with the name "Vladimir Ivanovich" is Colonel-General Andrei Burlaka, deputy head of the Russian FSB border service.

In November 2019, JIT published telephone conversations in which representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) called Vladimir Ivanovich the commander of the entire operation in eastern Ukraine. And former Defense Minister Igor Strelkov mentioned that he followed the orders of Vladimir Ivanovich.

The Insider journalists checked the phone numbers used by Vladimir Ivanovich through the GetContact app and searched for references to it "in all the wiretaps we know, leaked correspondence and other similar sources". As a result, indirect confirmation that it was one of the leaders of the FSB Andrei Burlaka was found in the leaked Viber correspondence of the assistant head of the DPR Denis Pushilin.

Bellingcat analyzed Burlaka ‘s trips in 2014-2015. According to them, at that time the high-ranking FSB official "constantly flew to Rostov, Crimea and Krasnodar - three centers of control of the Ukrainian operation." Its flights are chronologically connected to information obtained from telephone wiretaps, investigators said.

In turn, the Russian service of BBC received information from a source with access to personal databases, about the movements of the general in 2014 and found out that on the day of the downing of Boeing MH17 Andrei Burlaka was in Rostov-on-Don. In addition, the publication made a phonoscopic examination, which showed both similarities and some differences in the voice of General Burlaka and Vladimir Ivanovich.

One source, who called the BBC the probable name of "Vladimir Ivanovich," said that after the end of the active phase of the conflict in eastern Ukraine in 2014-2015, General Burlak received a promotion, as well as the highest state award - Hero of Russia.

On July 17, 2014, a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down near the city of Shakhtarsk in Ukraine’s Donetsk region. All crew members and passengers were killed, a total of 298 people, including 80 children.

At a press conference in The Hague in May 2018, nearly four years later, the JIT presented fragments of the missile used to shoot down the plane. The Buk system from which the missile was fired belonged to the 53rd anti-air missile brigade of the Russian Armed Forces, which is based in Kursk.

In June 2019, the JIT released the names of four suspects in the MH17 case: The three Russian citizens Sergey “Gloomy” Dubinsky, Oleg “Caliph” Pulatov and Igor “Strelkov” Girkin, and the Ukrainian citizen Leonid “Mole” Kharchenko. Former DPR militant Vladimir Tsemakh was later also declared a suspect, but Ukraine handed him over to Russia as part of a prisoner exchange.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) announced that the defendants are suspected of committing “a terrorist act which lead to human deaths”.

After five years of investigation, the JIT has established the exact time and route taken by the Buk anti-air missile system from Russia to Ukraine and back, the time and place where the fatal missile was fired, and obtained information about more than 150 people who were involved in the transportation of the Buk.

  MH17, Donbas, JIT, Russia