MH17 and the International Tribunal: Putting the Truth on Record

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EVENT TRANSCRIPT: MH17 and the International Tribunal: Putting the Truth on Record

DATE: 6pm – 7pm, 10 March 2020

VENUE: Thatcher Room, Portcullis House

SPEAKERS: Michael Bociurkiw, Eliot Higgins, Roland Oliphant

EVENT CHAIR: Dr Andrew Foxall

 

Dr Andrew Foxall

Good evening, Ambassador, Ladies and Gentlemen. The title of this talk is “MH17 and the International Tribunal: Putting the Truth on Record”. My name is Dr Andrew Foxall, I’m the Director of Research, Director of the “Russia and Eurasia Studies Centre” at the Henry Jackson Society, pleasure to see so many of you here. With regards this evening’s talk, it’s difficult to think, I think, of three better people to speak this topic, then the individuals who are beside me on the panel today. This is an issue that is clearly relevant, important and timely given a start of the court hearing yesterday in the Netherlands into the destruction of MH17.

The three people over here will speak to that, but they will also reflect in part on their own experiences and the role that they had played themselves in putting the truth on record. I’ll introduce them in order in which they will speak. First of all, to my left is Michael Bociurkiw, he’s an independent global affairs analyst, who contribute regularly to CNN opinion, he’s a journalist, he worked for a variety of international leading outlets – including the South China Morning Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Globe and Mail, Forbes, and Newsweek. For the purposes of this evening’s event, however, it’s notable that Michael, or Mike if I may, served as global spokesperson for OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine. He was a member of the first international team of observers to arrive at the crush site, on the 17th of July 2014, and acted (Inaudible) as the on-location, de facto spokesman for the catastrophe. Next, the speaker will be Roland Oliphant, to my right, who is senior foreign correspondent for The Telegraph. Roland is somebody whose work, most of you be aware of, for the last decade or so, he has lived and worked in the former Soviet Union, primarily in and on Vladimir Putin’s Russia. He reported on the Ukraine crisis from the very start from the protests on Maidan in Kyiv in late 2013, through to the annexation of Crimea, the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovyuch and the war in eastern Ukraine. He was again, for the purposes of this evening’s discussion, it’s notable that he was one of the first two journalists, if I’m right in saying, with Chris Miller to locate the (Inaudible) of the book “Missile” on the 21st of July 2014. And the third and final speaker to my far left is Eliot Higgins, a man who on this topic if no other, literally is no introduction. Founder of “Bellingcat”, who has done so much work with colleagues, of course, to document exactly what happened in the event (Inaudible) following the destruction of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 to people that, of course, were killed, including ten British. Without any further ado, Michael, please.

Michael Bociurkiw

Thank you, thank you very much and for the lovely introduction to the Henry Jackson Society, also to the Embassy of Ukraine, Madame Ambassador, for the lovely hospitality. Yes, so I’ve just come back from the Netherlands. I was there for Day 1 and also part of Day 2, today this morning, for the opening of the Criminal Trial. From my personal point of view, as you pointed out, is that I was a part of the.. My team and I were the First International Observer Mission to reach the crush site. We actually arrived there twenty hours after the plane came down, we still had daylight, we were only there for 75 minutes for the first day. The reason for that is that the only light meter of time, that whatever you want to call them, the Russian Buk thugs, rebels, whatever allowed us, but in the subsequent day as we spent a lot more time there, there were days when we could not reach the crush site, so we were staying, we were bunkered down on Donetsk and there were also so many days that passed by where, frankly speaking, we were wondering when will finally the investigators show up. The Dutch, the British, the Australians, that eventually they did, so that was a very welcome thing. So anyway, our role was, the OSCE’s Special Monitory Mission at that time was to document what we saw, to report every day, to really let the world know what was going on, and there was a surreal atmosphere, where there was no perimeter security, where these obnoxious, sometimes drunk thugs would be the guys in control, where these bodies lay exposed in the sun for quite some time. When we arrived there, there were still smoke, there was still the smell of fuel and after a while I saw the smell of death. It was very surreal time, and of course lots and lots of journalists and lots of ordinary people just wondering around, looking through wreckage, which you never see in any other conventional crush site. We first heard about this crush on twitter, actually, we were at the Headquarters in Kyiv and as the minutes passed by, we realised that this was a civilian airliner and later that it was a Malaysian airliner from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and for me, this severe experience was heightened by the fact that I’ve actually lived in Malaysia, I’ve reported from there, I’ve covered Malaysia airlines, and this happened on Ukrainian soil, of Ukrainian descent.

So, a lot of different threats came together, and I have to say that as hopeless as the situation looked when we arrived again with these bodies just lying there, that in a few quick days the body bags were procured, some order was restored, I think they’ve changed the command, if you want to call that, the command on the rebel site, so they did collect as many bodies as they can and then with our kind of facilitation, if you will, was brought to a nearby town to a train station they were (Inaudible) refrigerator cars. And I have to tell you, there was one moment there, which will always be in my head, is when the two Dutch forensic experts arrived and climbed on board this train with these bodies, and stood there and gave them a moment of silence, but the look on their faces, I will never forget that and there were also some Ukrainian civil workers at the train station, and the one thing I remember about them is the kind of care they took to seal the doors of the car, the train, so that everything was properly sealed and documented, and that this train could finally move forward within, no one knew until the last moment whether this train would actually move out of that town. But it did and it made its way with one of my colleagues to Kharkiv. And then on the way to the Netherlands for identification and processing. When we saw the first footage of the bodies arriving in the Netherlands, in that action of the funeral cars, it was a big moment. It was a big moment take close part of the circle for us, because we thought “finally, finally these bodies are there, and they will be treated with the dignity that they deserve after such a tragic event” and similarly with the trial, arriving there yesterday morning, and I don’t know how many of you were watching the proceedings, but they took about 18 minutes to read out the 298 names of the victims. And to me that was also the closing of a big circle of those five-six years’ process, from the time we arrived to the site.

Now, I also have to say that when Ukrainian International Airlines PSR 752 crushed in Tehran in January, I was actually in the United States, and the morning after the crash, my phone started ringing off the hook. All kind of news outlets asking me for moment. Why? Because of the similarities of this crash. There were some startling similarities, not least of which was, it was a Russian missile as well, in the control apparently of the Iranians, but with similar technology as the Buk missile that brought down the Malaysian airlines Boeing, where it goes up at a high altitude scatters fragment and makes the airplane an airworthy. But as we were talking as journalists yesterday, at least the Iranians found it within their soils, if you want, to admit that these missiles were there as there were up and apparently there was a mistake. That is something that Russia has never brought itself to do. Having said that, I can tell you that the investigations on that site is not going very well, the black box is still in Iranian hands and we don’t know when it all be turned over. Whenether before so I get to the trial, whenether very bizarre moment over time in Donetsk was when the Malaysians suddenly showed up out of nowhere to receive the black boxes. Apparently they had signed an agreement with the Russian-backed rebels, the so-called DNR to take these black boxes out of their hands, and it was so kind of rapidly done, that the Malaysians didn’t bring a stamp, people from that part of the world like the stamp on the official document. So, apparently they made one on the spot and put the Malaysian stamp, and the black box was given over. But it was a very-very bizarre moment. After their arrival, we did escort more Dutch investigators, Australians and others, so that things could be done. Now, but the case and I won’t go on for too long, because I really want to leave a lot of time for questions, but the Dutch prosecutors were working of the evidence, collected by the Dutch-led joined investigation team. With the feeling that they have a very strong ironclad case, the Dutch would not have started this criminal trial if they didn’t. A lot of the evidence is intercepted telephone conversations and investigators even went to the effort of tringle-aiding mobile phone towers to make sure that once the trial gets underway, the can prove that these were real phone calls from these particular locations. So a lot authentication had gone on. Now, they also they’ve also said they’ve got plenty of witnesses including for example a Ukrainian who filmed the missile heading up to altitude, but all of the witnesses are not going to be identified in their trial, many have been threatened and intimidated both in rebel-controlled Donetsk and also inside the Russian Federation. We were told that they could be changed with treason if they discomfort and were identified. So again all of the witness testimony has been presented anonymously so as to protect the identity of the individuals. Now, I do think there could be more witness testimony introduced. There could be more suspects, a few months ago, we were told there could be as many as 100 persons of interest, but that still remains to be seen.

But, the Dutch are offering witness protection to everyone who comes forward. How enclaved it is I don’t know. I wanted to say a few words if I could about the relatives. Many have shown up for the trial, many have spent a lot of money up until now, not only getting their lives back together but even, for example, the British families travelling to London a few weeks ago to testimony to the Dutch prosecutor. Sadly, and I don’t know how this happened, but some of the British relatives showed up at the Court House yesterday morning, you can imagine how long they’ve waited for this, for them it’s a big sense of closure, and the waited out of the Court room. They had to travel all the way to the heck to watch it remotely there in a big screen. Look, I compliment the Dutch for everything they’ve done, but I think this was unacceptable and is very-very sad what happened. And you can imagine how (Inaudible) many of them were. So, and I can tell you, I often say: out of tragedy comes some kind of positive or opportunity, and that is that I’ve become friends with many of the relatives. They’ve become close friends of mine, and this is a really-really rewarding thing for all of us. But, many of them, I can tell you, are dealing with stress, they require psycho-social support, they can’t bear it as a fact what happened, there’s no closure for them yet. And I have to say that some have received no human remains of their loved-ones, some have only received small bone-fragments, so some funerals are to take place.

So far, 49 plan to speak at the trial, 82 have given written victim-impact statements and 84 plan to seek damages. Quick word about the suspects: as you know there are four of them, three Russians and one Ukrainian, but only one of them Oleg Pulatov had legal representation. You can speak more about this, but he’s a formal Lieutenant colonel in the Russian Armed Force and used the call sign “Gyurza”. We were talking a lot about the process of this individual seeking legal concern, we think what might have happened is that the Russians were probably funding this and they’ve decided that “okay, we’ll pick one of the four and bankroll then, so they can get very high legal representation in the Netherlands”. And that seems about what has happened. But it could be we’re talking earlier, that some of the other three suspects may also introduce a legal counsel. So far the approach of the defence testimony, defence team has been very interesting.  To me, their testimony yesterday it could have been written by the Russian Embassy. Pulatov’s lawyers are really (Inaudible) into the weak links, if you will, of this case, and the one that they’ve chosen is that Ukraine for whatever reason did not close its air space entirely. Its only up to -I believe- the 32.000 feet and 9.754 meters, and unfortunately on that day MH17 was one of the 160 or so aircraft that passed through that air corridor and it was just about 1.000 above the closest air space. So yesterday the defence team said that to keep the air space open was remarkable. And the other interesting thing I mentioned, the Joint investigation team of which Ukraine is a very keen member and the defence team said that (Inaudible) to the legitimacy of Ukraine’s position on the JIT say that “how can they be a full-fledged member if these questions remains over the airspace. If you want to know or ask me more about that airspace, I am happy to address that. One final thing, and I think this is really-really important, whenever I go to CNN opinion and I say I’d like to picture opinion piece about this or this, the goal is to address why is it important. Why is it important especially to Americans or why is it important to the world? Well it’s really important because if this heinous crime this mass murder goes unpunished, what is to stop another group of terrorists, or thugs from getting weapons and its easier, it seems to me, easier to get high grade weaponry these days, from blowing another airline from out of the sky. So if anything has to be a deterrent for this to happen again, a deterrent to other groups as well.  So, we’re hoping that a strong signal will be sent out from this, that these types of, this behaviour is intolerable and punishable by very strict sentences. So, I think I will end for now.

Dr Andrew Foxall

Thank you Mike, Roland!

Roland Oliphant

Alright! Thanks for having me! I say this because it is good to talk about it. I had some conversations with the families and I feel like (Inaudible) I wish they were here, rather than me. It seems I had the opportunity to talk about it. I was the Moscow correspondent for The Telegraph’s at that time, during the shot down. I think I know that these people could quite leave it, I got a call from my editor asking me about this airline that was shot down and when you are a foreign correspondent you get used to exciting (Inaudible) with editors you’ve seen things, maybe less reputable papers which (Inaudible) shot down an airline. That lasted for about 10 minutes, and then we were trying to get there, as closest about. We made roughly 24 hours from Moscow to the crush sites. I think you’ve not probably heard a lot about the crush site look like. We arrived and the sun was getting down. We could just see that that’s an aircraft here and there. We were basically stranded in the middle of nowhere. We were advised by the separatist government who was controlling this site. I wouldn’t try to get to Donetsk after dark. You know, there were rumors of flying above Ukraine, lots of nerves. We ended up camping on the crush site with the rest of the workers in the tents. And also we had not to touch anything, one touching anything, because the investigators were in the crime scene, right? One investigator, we don’t know that investigator, someone told us: “there’s gonna be an investigation”, you can’t touch him. So we spend the night in tents.

When we wake up in the morning, we walk out straight of the tent, there was a young man’s body lying just a few yards from where we were sitting. Basically it was a field covered in literally in its fragments: bone and human, aircraft, and everything that you put in your cabin baggage basically. Horrible scene. There was going on a process that followed after that. We were trying to withstand what was going on. The journalists at that time were chasing the site which is the collection of the bodies. The bodies were gonna be collected, our investigators gonna show up. Once the question of the bodies has been resolved, there’s a question of the black boxes, when the Malaysians show up handing them the black boxes. Now, for several days of this most of that, (Inaudible) the bodies have been brought on a train and sent back to Kharkiv. The black boxes have been handed over. It was pretty much clear by this point that there wasn’t going to be a western military intervention, which we were considering. Sitting through that in a “journalistic world”. I don’t know. It’s like there was gonna be a Dutch rapid reaction force on the ground soon. Who knows? It’s pretty clear that that wasn’t gonna happen, but we moved to the next stage of the new questions, which was “okay, who did this, how, why, how do we establish that?” And that”s really a bit about the question that we should talk about today.

We didn’t have any links. Everybody in that part of Ukraine is pretty convinced that Ukrainians shot down the aircraft. All of the CIA have done it. Certainly not the Russians, certainly not the Russian-backed separatists, and no one was in a mood to cooperate. So you have a strange situation with a bunch of some journalists fanning out from Eastern Ukraine (Inaudible) down the street. Different people of different approaches, some people (Inaudible) maybe they didn’t see a rocket launcher, maybe something different, something that was not an attack. Other people would just, you know, walk passing by on street. So we’ve seen a book, some people answered some people didn’t. In the end, what let us launch summit, sadly we didn’t have official ends. There was one clue, which was a photograph taken by a local guy of the smoke drain. The shooting straight up from the horizon, which has allegedly been taken just a few seconds before or after the crash. We didn’t really know what it was, but it looked like a smoke drain essentially if we then know where the photograph was taken from, which was quickly established. You can basically draw a line on the map from the area where it was taken through the smoke blue and think “well if that is the smoke blue, then the rocket must be found somewhere not away that line”. And by these points two or three, four days after the crash I lost track of time. At that point there was nothing left to find, so sitting in the tents, having a coffee early in the morning, really worried about the paper, basically and a blogger, an anonymous pro-Ukrainian blogger who’s put that (Inaudible). And I am extremely suspicious, I’m extremely suspicious because by this point in the war we’ve learned not to trust anything that’s on the internet, especially from anonymous bloggers, and especially not by people who support one side or the other, and this guy was very-very, firmly pro-Ukrainian, and frankly, I’ve suspected the reason he have been there was to frame the Russian side. There was another link, and I had the afternoon, so I called a taxi and then I thought: “God do I wanna go driving around and looking for the missile by myself?” So, I called up Chris Miller, who is (Inaudible) and we took off with a very prompt taxi driver, just kind of tracing this line, If you know Donbas its a kind of, it’s a landscape rolling on unyielding fields, very agricultural, but between agriculture you have mines and that kind of things. And to have this story short, we found ourselves in wheat field talking to a combine harvest driver about whether he has seen a missile launch over the field down the way. Then we went down and the field was pretty much on the red line, we quite lost the battlefield, it kind of fits, we looked around, looking for, you know, tell-tell bits of book “Missile” and there’s nothing that really gives it away, but we think “maybe there’s something here”. So we took some photographs and we headed off and whilst we were driving out of the field, we saw a kind of flattering red flag on the trees over our head. Our hearts almost stopped. We basically walked into a conceal separatist position, while we were looking for evidence of them committing the war craft. And we went back to the tents. And it turned that that was a spot. We didn’t know it at that time, and I am pretty sure if we had, we would meet with someone else there. Nonetheless, you know, it’s a bit of journalism I am quite proud of, because journalism often doesn’t change the theme, I call the (Inaudible), who has left the Middle East for us, it’s been covering the Syrian war, for a very touching piece about how she feels, the reporting sheet, and then basically didn’t make a difference, the slaughtered continued.

I could say a lot about that it’s true about Ukraine as well, but in this particular case, that’s a bit of reporting, which is a very small contribution of more or less directly contributes to people being held for justice for a crime. It’s very rare actually in journalism to be kept to hold the power to account to expose lives. That’s what we say when we infer normally, we are writing press releases and stuff. This was big journalism that made a difference. And I would say I am honestly proud. On the other hand, this is the other thing I want to get to; it didn’t make a difference at all. Is that war continued and it’s important to kind of MH17 content. MH17 is probably the bloodiest scene or incident in the war in East Ukraine, in which at least 13.000 people have died to date, which is still going on. And what happened to MH17 is horrific. Absolutely horrific. I went back to that crash site, the launch site a year later. At that time I managed to find witnesses, I managed to find people who saw the rocket flying, that’s when I knew for sure that they did it. I’ve got the right place. (Inaudible) She said: “why the hell are you down here reporting this only when your people die? We have people dying for a good year we’ve been in war” and it turned out that some journalists, I don’t know who has been there before, and she asked him the same question, and he basically told her “I actually don’t care about Ukrainians or Russians”, which is a pretty unforgivable thing to say, and I understand that she was pretty angry. I think that the point I want to get to is that there is a cliché in foreign journalism, which is about that “we were there, we have witnesses, we hope (Inaudible) giving a voice to the voices, you know, people in wars who are the most powerless but pay the biggest price, so the people on MH17 were amongst those people. So the people, the ordinary residents of East Ukraine who have seen their houses destroyed, they’ve seen their communities cut in half by front lines, they’ve seen their loved ones killed by flying bullets, they’ve seen people adopted, the entire economy going down. There are also people, by the way, who went out and collected bodies and collected the wreckage, and the people who gathered passports and people’s mobile phones, and they’re still doing that a year later in order to help the investigators, and then the people who set up make-shift monuments next to the multiple crash sites around that place few square kilometres around the villages in East Ukraine. And I think those people deserve to be remembered, because they’re still living through, and their future is still very uncertain. And in that spirit, in memory of those, the victims of the war, I spoke to a couple of the family members this week, as the trial began. One of them was Robbie (Inaudible) who’s quite expert on Twitter, he’s Dutch, who has been walking around with a really visible sense of anger about this, ever since that happened. I walked with the justice team from this trial and he was like “Rob since someone is punished, that’s in a Hollywood movie, basically”. What would really mean something would be if the people who were responsible would come clean. Because that’s made it ten times worse. And to be honest, it’s very much worse, for me as well. The anger, I think, around it, it’s largely about the way even when the evidence is stuck up, even when you look, even when you are active, well really? Maybe there is a question about that. Maybe there was a Ukrainian fight. When you’ve gone through that and you’ve looked at from every single angle, and you just know there’s no other explanation for this, and the responsible part is still pretending that “it wasn’t me”, it’s infuriating and it’s deeply insulting. And the point was if only people would say that “okay, we made a mistake, we thought it was a Ukrainian blame” that would make a big difference. That’s the thing I wanted to say.

Dr Andrew Foxall

Eliot, word to you

Eliot Higgins

So, I’ve been running a blog for a couple of years, from 2012 and from 2014 I wanted to launch a new website. I’ve spent several months setting up. I came for the name “Bellingcat”, and on July 14th I’ve launched it with the (Inaudible) campaign, three days later, on the 17th we shot down. And that acted as a massive catalyst both for a kind of growth of Bellingcat, the growth of the open-source investigation community, and the growth of the fields of open-source investigation. Initially, what happened is because there was a kind of social online discussion unchartered. There were photographs being found, people were sharing stuff, arguing, debating. But I initially focused on one video that showed what that supposed missile shoot going down the road and reaching the location, and then another photograph appeared, and then another video and all this community stuff started figuring out all these kind of individual locations, where these taken supposedly showing the missile launch by the Ukrainians set. This is where the shoot was made for the MH17. We also have photographs of the wreckage, at the crash site and one of the questions was “what actually did shoot down MH17, is there enough evidence of a missile? or could it be something else?” So one of the things that I did, was that I gathered all the photographs I could find of the Copic section of the aircraft, basically put them in sequence, because you basically have people walking around and taking photographs, and you can actually put those in sequential order, and create the preview of the wreckage because it was very difficult to say what that was, and what this big was, and what was this piece of metal, but by doing that you can get an understanding of where everything was and that’s where we first recognized that the Copic floor was (Inaudible). And other details and other pieces of the aircraft on the upper side of it was full of marks from shut down damage. So that was the first indication that this is something that was from an external explosion. It still didn’t confirm exactly what that was, but then we’re teaching this missile launcher. So once we established the locations they’ve gone through as this kind of online community, and I might say that we, it was literally just people on twitter, just chasing, there was no kind of Bellingcat investigation team like there is now. Just trying to figure out where this was taken, and then people were finding social media posts that were made by people at the time this missile launch had gone through their town, or someone else spotted them. And this is very important, because obviously after MH17 was shot down, there were a lot of accusations that stuff was being faked, that people are lying. But this post was made at 12:00 in Ukraine, as a missile launcher went through a town.

So, this told us that there was a kind of not just videos and photographs, but actual people who’ve seen it. And over time, over the months and years, we’ve built a network of information around the roots of the missile launcher And over time, over the months and years, we’ve built a network of information around the roots of the missile launcher. In October 2014 the Joint Investigation team came to the UK and interviewed missile witnesses, where they’ve asked me to go every single post I’ve been making. People started volunteering to right of Bellingcat and I spend around twelve hours with them explaining every single post line by line, every single detail answering every question and that’s when I thought: “well, they must be taking out work seriously, to spend this much time with us”. I’ve said to the other people who’ve been contributing one of them was Veli-Pekka Kivimäki and Andrew Haggard. Why don’t we create a team and look into this stuff further, and we created a team called “Slack” which is a cooperation platform that started looking into more evidence and slowly growing this team. And we found, for example, there were photographs and videos being shared of missile launchers in Russia. This convoy, we tracked the route of this convoy from the 53rd air defence brigade in Kursk all the way down for the road from the border of Ukraine. And that’s when we realised that one of the missile launches and the features they were very very similar to the missile launch in Ukraine. The And that’s when we realised that one of the missile launches and the features they were very very similar to the missile launch in Ukraine. The pain marks ware damaged, and identical. Over the years we found more images and realised that this was this missile launcher that was seen in Ukraine and linked us to the shooting of the MH17. What also happened to the journalists, we’ve seen work unfolding up and you know, when we found the location, for example from one of the photos of missile launchers, journalists went there and spoke to local people, who said that they’ve seen that on that day. So it was very useful to have people on the grounds who were forming up. We could then look further. Over time we established that the 53rd air brigade was involved at the.. Some people had made separate phone calls, some who were mentioned in calling yesterday. And it has been very interesting to listen to the Court case and at least the details that are coming out of it. One thing that was very interesting is how they specifically mentioned the information from Bellingcat and how they checked it very independently. And there were talking about missile launcher roots and the videos and photographs they had there. Both from open sources and elsewhere. And how not while there were using techniques used by Bellingcat to verify it, but also they knew people in the convoy had specific phones. And those phones were connected to mobile phone towers at specific times, which match with the root of the convoy, so this kind of reveal through the trial those actual little enemies that there were adding to the investigation. They, of course, had more witnesses who had more videos and photographs of the missile launcher.

One thing that really stood out to me, was when they described one witness who was a separatist man at the checkpoints, next to the field where was the launch from. He’d seen the launch. He’d seen people who had Russian accents and other details. And that really starts giving you the sense of the amount of the information that the Joint Investigation team has. They also addressed some of the ferries, the way the evidence has been attacked. Helping out with the European Court Human Rights case, this is currently based on open source evidence. And they’ve mentioned at the trial yesterday, that one of the claims made by Russia is that one of the videos has in its meta-data a date of July 16th, 2014. Therefore, this video must be made before MH17 was shot down. And these are little details from Bellingcat that we found very interesting, we would like to dig into. And there is a reason for this, and funny enough it was actually the bangs on the 20th of July 2014. So I was amazed. It was in the response by Russia to the European Court of Human Rights case. It is actually an old bag in the coding of Youtube and how the encryption is done. With actually literally just issued them on the post of this. The fact that this was known, this bag is known about, it’s been written about by various people for a long time. And it’s still being used in Russia’s defense in the European Court of Human Rights cases, bizarrely, because it also speaks to how little they have to go with, their complete lack of what they have to go with. The defence yesterday when they were talking about the air space being closed. It’s not relevant to look at what has been told in the trials, so, although the defense has to take more time and we see huge case folders, there was 32.000 pages, 6.000 multimedia files, a huge amount of information. I think they really will struggle to find a solid defense of it. So, it’s gonna be very interesting to see what additional information comes out, I think in a meeting again in June, but even the first couple of the days of the small amount of information that has been released, and has been very very interesting, I am hoping to put a little bit information about what was revealed at the Court of the last two days.

Dr Andrew Foxall

Alright. Thank you. You were admirably concise in your comment. I realise that we only have 15 minutes left, so I didn’t want to abuse the Chair’s prerogative to (Inaudible) about the first questions. What I am simply going to do is open it up to the floor. If I could ask you simply to identify who you are and if you represent a particular organisation when you ask your question. And also I begin taking questions in a set of two. And also where there is an all-male panel and there are female individuals in the audience. So, I would welcome questions from those views as well. Please Euan and then Whit.

Audience

Thank you very much, Euan Grant, former UK Law Enforcement Intelligence Analyst, worked in Ukraine several times, not in the Donbas. I was the so-called studio expert in the LBC Radio Studios throughout the evening MH17 was shot down. When I got the call to go to the studio before I left, somebody in the room, a prominent observer of Russian activities said: “it’s a Buk missile” and all the experts coming to connect (not only me) contacted by LBC that evening they all basically accepted: “look this is pointing on this way”. My question is: “Is there anything been done to monitor the social media or other activities of Western apologists for Russia in relation to MH17”. People who have posted in the past in relation to their activities now and throughout the trial, including their activities in silence. And particularly, the US, the UK, Netherlands and Malaysia. And also, what is the body language of Russians in the West, who are asked about what they really believe. Thank you.

Dr Andrew Foxall

Thank you, Whit.

Audience

Hi. Whit Johnson. I’m influence advisor in the British (Inaudible). I actually have two questions. One: do you know any plans to communicate to the conservative audiences rational, or otherwise who may be sceptical about the case against Russia. And second: Do you worry about the security of the traffic within your network? And I’m asking that because it’s an operational issue for me.

Dr Andrew Foxall

Thank you. So three different questions, so you are all welcome to tackle them.

Eliot Higgins

I’m going to talk about the social media monitory. I mean we, I have to say something that you described has been extremely unlined and I do spend a lot of time on social media. Unfortunately interacting with this kind of people. Probably the biggest thing has been the release of leaks, documents of the Joint Investigation Team in reference to the Court case today. That has probably been the biggest thing so far. I mean we really haven’t been as controversial as people would like them to be. And really what we’ve seen in the Court case today really shows that (Inaudible). So, there is that kind of “going on” and it has “rolled up” the community around the MH17 already. But, I mean, there’s nothing really big or, you know, “organised” at the moment. So, I will keep just do, what I’m already doing. On the network security thing, this is something we have to worry about quite a lot because we’ve been repeatedly tilted by hackers, which we’ve been told by various substitutes companies linked to Russia. The biggest one we had was last year. We have protonmeil accounts for sensitive communications, not super-super sensitive, but they were targeted by a new, very sophisticated hacking campaign, which a couple of cybersecurity companies said that they had the same infrastructure as previous Russian hacks. And then, back into 2016 and 2015, when we had the hacks that resulted in the leaks with the (Inaudible) campaign. We were also talked to that part of the campaign, I think several thousand of people were part of that, with the protonmeil campaign it was much, much more targeted. We identified only about 30 individuals who were targeted. And it all seems to be people who were working on specific subjects to do with Russia. We’ve expanded a lot as an organisation as well, so it used to be just me on my laptop, and then we slowly grew and on the last year, we have gone from 6 members of staff to.. We are now fully raised as a charity in the Netherlands with 20 members of staff that supervise you and all kinds of things, but security is a really, really big issue. So we’ve been doing a lot of work with tactical technology in Berlin. They’re an organisation that works with NGO’s to help them with their cybersecurity issues, so we are doing a lot with them at the moment to improve what we’re doing. Trying to do a lot compartmentalizing as well, although we do definitely need to improve our security movement of slack for example. Because it just not secure enough for a lot of what we’re doing. It’s something that’s really in the forefront of our mind, especially with the staff we’ve been doing recently with GRU spies and identifying their real identities.

Dr Andrew Foxall

Thank you

Michael Bociurkiw

A couple of real quick points: so in terms of the social media activity and so on, there is a new entity called “Be Danza media”, they call themselves an independent media platform. I restarted by a former “Russia Today” journalist. Anyway, they had a press conference two days ago, where they did the same thing. They reintroduced these debunked kind of theories and bugs, whatever you wanna call it. But actually, they were accredited by the Dutch covered Trial. And they were there yesterday, one of them tried to interview me. I didn’t cooperate, so they went after me last night, big time, with all the Russian trolls. So, we had a bit of fun about that. One more thing I have to say, there is a.. not an apologist, but I don’t know what to call him, but you may reckon his name as Mohamad Mahathir, Prime Minister Mahathir, Malaysia. Has now been revealed from office. And from the point of view probably from Ukrainians this is a good thing because for the past few months I’ve covered him intensively, I don’t know if he’s going out soon, but he’s been saying that the Russians have been used as a scapegoat for this whole incident. So, it’s not helping the case at all, of course, the Malaysians are a big integral part of the Joint Investigation Team, but now that he’s gone, the Malaysians seem to be more on this side of.. you know, agreeing with all the other parties to the investigation.

Roland Oliphant

I am not sure about the Russian body language.

Audience

Do they look as they’ve believed their governments?

Roland Oliphant

Okay. So Russia’s have got about 140 million in it (if that’s right). And there are lots of different Russians. And, diplomats, Russian diplomatic doctrine, as I understand it (if there’s someone from the Russian embassy here tonight, correct me if I’m wrong). As I understand it’s too benign, any connection with MH17. What I understand, is that that doctrine comes from the top and the reason for that is they just do not see it outside in the meeting. It’s that simple. They do not see it and say: “ooh, look, I mean the Iranians trust in respect”. They just don’t see outside. And that’s hard. You know, all kinds of reasonably including acknowledging, and they deploy troops to East Ukraine that they still deny. As for ordinary Russians, they have many different opinions about their government as anybody else. Some people will believe it, what the Russian government says, and some people don’t.

Dr Andrew Foxall

Thank you. So, two more questions. James, coming to you, and then the gentleman behind you.

Audience

Thanks. James Nixey. Chatham House. Do you feel .. in 2008 (Inaudible) Do you feel that the Dutch investigation Trial was being very very slow, dragged on. Or do you feel -quite reasonably- that being slow on purpose and methodical so there are no (Inaudible) And a similar question: do you feel the western governments are being out about calling up Russian rebels are ominous, or they see the sanctions in place in 2017 so, similar question.

Dr Andrew Foxall

Yes, please

Audience

Denis Gursky. Former Advisor to Prime Minister of Ukraine from 2014 to 2016. So, basically born and raised in Mariupol (Inaudible) I was involved in the communications in the first weeks (Inaudible). My question is what the communications that (Inaudible) in coordination rather Russian policies, rebels, and (Inaudible). And if it was sort of coordinated and we know the answer if it’s been somehow coordinated, deliberated and basically (Inaudible) in a collective manner or there is always more or less sound institutions and there is no single message.

Dr Andrew Foxall

Thank you. The speed of the investigation

Roland Oliphant

I’ve got a great quote from Robbie Orleans about this: And he said: “the way they’ve handled that was really the Dutch way. I wish in England or Americans set a perimeter around the area and say: this is ours” And this is a very specific situation. He said: “the difference between the Dutch and other countries is very analytical and save”. I think ten times before that act and they’ve spent too much time getting stone. That’s why Ireland is not the best county to go to war, but it’s very useful for transportation and logistics. Yes, he was frustrating, but ultimately he seemed not angry about the way its worked out. And there is also another one concept: the relatives saying.. You always put this trailer going on in your head: “I want this and now”. I hope that they are doing really well. And my feeling of watching the trial so far.. I feel like those hopes are, I’ve indicated.

Michael Bociurkiw

On the Dutch, I think there is one thing about the Dutch. Psyche, as well as they, don’t like proven wrong. So the (Inaudible) is a very meticulous way in terms of gathering the evidence and I’ll better be consistent with what I’ve said on TV the last 24 hours, but yeah, I think they’ve built an iron clack case and went out of their way to really collect evidence. Having said that, something that I’ve said earlier, the war very, very slow to come to the crime scene to collect evidence and like I said with the crush PS752 every minute, every hour, every day that goes by you lose evidence, you lose all kind of stuff. Western governments, disappointed overall, a lot of them just can’t find it in their brains or in their souls to say: “enough about this”. But I also worry what’s have going on here in Europe, with changing of governments, with the softening I think of attitudes towards sanctions against Russia. A lot of them are pressured by their former’s, or effort to restart trade and whatever with Russia. So, the kind of collective unity that we once had on this one, I don’t think it’s there at the moment. Sadly.

Eliot Higgins

We’ve been doing our own investigation with MH17, so we do appreciate how long this can take. For example, the 53rd Air Defence Brigade Investigation where we rescued social media posts of the soldiers and every information to piece to give it to every single member and every face and every name and rank, took two people a year to do. And we won’t even preserve this as an evidence. So, with that extra element and all the other things that have been investigated, it is really understandable why it takes so long. I think the Court has shown what we’ve seen in the last two days they have really meticulous with what they’ve been doing. And with the conspiracy theories that have been said a lot, I think its been it has actually been quite useful for the JIT because in a way of crowdsources, Russia’s defence before they even make it because all these people on the internet making upon these ferries, just uses of every single idea to defend Russia against the crime. So, I think they’ve also been very careful about looking to all those allegations. I don’t think the western governments could be a bit more vocal about what happened. I mean, we also, the Bellingcat have been looking into these geo-activities like the poisoning in Bulgaria, the Montenegro coup, and so much more. And it’s doesn’t really seem to be much happening there. The language used is it really about how the sects have been described by the language being used? Because it is a courtesy of our own work. Because often we (Inaudible) how do we describe these people. Because we know some of them are Russians, and some of them are not from the military, and some of them are, and some of them are “unofficially officially” there, you know, Russian troops with their missile launchers and their tanks. How do we actually describe this? So we kind of stuck with Russian Buks mainly because whilst you end up using so many different ways to describe it, it just becomes a complete mess when you try to write it. But when it comes to specific individuals and groups, you can use more specific language, but it is a challenge, and we often get people especially Ukrainians who write critically of the precise wording used to describe something. It’s quite difficult to have a certain house style when it comes to that. Because the makeup of the opposition that the separatists, the Russians, whoever is so complicated. And it’s very hard to describe it in a short free word phrase sometimes.

Dr Andrew Foxall

Thank you. We are past 19:00 o’clock now. Unfortunately, the hour, 55 minutes have flown. In the end, I want to come back to a point Roland, that you made. The MH17 is both a tragedy of a part of a larger tragedy. Which relates to the invasion of the eastern Ukraine and the war is still ongoing. It is now one of the longest-running wars in Europe in the last part of the century, and one of the bloodiest wars in Europe soon as 1991 in the thirty or so years. And I think, it’s important that we don’t forget about that context in the broader, I suppose, context of Europe’s changing politics and local priorities. The Ambassador I was speaking before, we sorted, and there was a sense that unfortunately Russia’s, the Kremlin and President Putin’s sort of secret weapon, was going to be the West’s attention span. And the West’s attention deaths disorder. And I think it’s hugely important that Roland your ordering and that Mike made, and what we do with the Bellingcat that we keep banging this drum. And we as far as we are able to ensure that people don’t forget about this. So I would like to thank the three of you for really insightful, fascinating discussion both personnel reflection, but also the broader context. And also to you as well for attending. Thank you.

HJS



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