Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

Janine Davidson examines the art, politics, and business of American military power.

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Amid Growing Evidence of Russian Involvement in MH17 Tragedy, No Sign of De-Escalation

by Janine Davidson
July 23, 2014

mh17-ukraine-intelligence College students gather around candles forming the shape of an airplane, during a candlelight vigil for victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, at a university in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province July 19, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)


As the Russian media continues to spin its own increasingly far-fetched narrative about the tragic shoot down of MH17, the U.S. military has released new intelligence that solidly links Russian military assistance to the disaster. The intelligence reaffirms the White House’s statements that Ukraine’s pro-Russian separatists, likely with Russian help, are responsible for firing the Buk missile that downed a passenger jet flying over Ukrainian airspace.  Officials have also stated that the Ukrainian military had no surface-to air-assets within striking range of MH17.

Among the evidence offered are several photographs, released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and featured by the Washington Post, depicting the movement of the Buk missile launcher to pro-Russian separatists, and showing the buildup of Russian troops and weaponry on the Ukrainian border, despite protestations by Putin and the Russian government to the contrary. Though not able to share classified material, officials say they have the capability using satellite imagery to trace the missile’s trajectory and confirm its launch origin.


Images released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and featured in the Washington Post. These images appear to show the movement of an SA-11 surface-to-air interceptor in eastern Ukraine, as well as wider Russian military buildup in the region.

In addition to classified intelligence, officials are also collecting information from various social media outlets, including photos and recordings from rebels indicating that initially they believed they had shot down a Ukrainian military transport.

Mistake or not, the lack of de-escalation and the media war being conducted by Putin are both alarming signals to the international community that this tragedy has not fractured the resolve of the pro-Russian separatists, nor those in the shadows supporting them.  Since the downing of MH-17, pro-Russian separatists have used surface-to-air missiles to bring down two more Ukrainian military jets; for now, there seems no interest in dialing down hostilities.

Amy Schafer, research intern for defense policy, contributed to this post.

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