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Dutch investigators at the scene of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17’s crash, November 16, 2014

Official records reveal that 170 Russian soldiers were deployed at the Ukrainian border on the day MH17 was shot down

Dutch investigators at the scene of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17’s crash, November 16, 2014
Dutch investigators at the scene of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17’s crash, November 16, 2014
Mikhail Pochuev / TASS / Scanpix / LETA

More than 170 soldiers from Russia’s 53rd Air Defense Missile Brigade, which was based near Kursk, were located near the Ukrainian border on July 17, 2014, the day Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down outside Donetsk, according to unclassified Russian Defense Ministry documents obtained by the newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

International investigators say the Buk surface-to-air missile that destroyed the passenger plane and killed all 298 people on board was assigned to this same brigade. Based on the official findings, the Buk missile system that fired the missile arrived in Ukraine from Russia and then crossed back over the border.

One of the Defense Ministry documents uncovered by Novaya Gazeta states that Russian soldiers received orders on June 23, 2014 (three weeks before MH17 was shot down), to ensure the safety of public roads as the 53rd Brigade moved equipment from Kursk to the Ukrainian border. The 63rd Logistic Support Brigade also participated in this transport operation. This brigade’s records also mention the “Kamaz” heavy truck that was sighted in amateur footage near the Ukrainian border beside a Buk missile system.

Another document from the 53rd brigade states that its soldiers arrived on July 15 (two days before MH17 was shot down) near the Ukrainian border at a military base in Millerovo, where they were issued field rations for five days, and sent to another location. Afterwards, according to Novaya Gazeta, one of the brigade’s vehicles was spotted inside Ukrainian territory.

Novaya Gazeta also tried to contact several current and former soldiers in the 53rd brigade. The newspaper managed to reach Irina Kolesnik, a medical officer in the brigade who traveled to Millerovo in 2014 and currently works at the Interior Ministry’s medical center in Kursk, but she refused to discuss MH17. “I can’t tell you anything. I have no right to talk about [the country’s] actions,” she said.

Spokespeople for the Russian Defense Ministry and 53rd brigade have not commented on Novaya Gazeta’s report. In the past, state officials have repeatedly denied any Russian involvement in the attack on MH17. The Defense Ministry’s position is that Russian Buk missile systems never once crossed the Ukrainian border, and the missile fired at the passenger aircraft was not in the Russian military’s arsenal.

Summary by Alexander Baklanov

Translation by Kevin Rothrock

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