By Eric van de Beek
The MH17 wreckage was still burning when the Ukrainian secret service convinced western audiences that rebels had brought down the plane. However several persons that for years have been incriminated in the media are not suspected by the Dutch Public Prosecutor and are not standing trial.
09 March, 2020. Public Prosecutor Ward Ferdinandusse gives opening statement on MH17 case.
Only six hours after the downing of MH17 the Ukrainian secret service SBU put a video on YouTube with tapped phone conversations from rebels in Ukraine, indicating that they had brought down MH17. The video was immediately picked up by the media, among which the Dutch evening news on July 17 2014. The SBU video got over a million views.
From then on the atmosphere was set. The rebels were to blame, and probably Russia too. No need to explore alternate scenarios incriminating for Ukraine. The media were mobilized to pick up any information that would confirm the rebels' and Russia's guilt, and to overlook contradicting intelligence.
One person incriminated by the SBU video was Igor Nikolaevich Bezler, a sub-commander of the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR). He is heard on the phone intercept saying: "We have just shot down a plane. That was 'Miner's' group. It fell down outside Enakievo." According to the SBU, this call was recorded approximately twenty minutes after the downing of MH17.
In another phone intercept published by SBU, one week later, a sub-ordinate informs Bezler that a 'birdie' is flying towards him. Bezler then instructs him to report this message 'upwards'. The SBU presented the intercept as evidence Bezler had coordinated the downing of the civilian airliner. This exegesis was subsequently promoted by the open source investigators of Bellingcat.
However, Bezler is not standing trial, and nor are his interlocutors. In his opening statement in the MH17 court case Public Prosecutor Ward Ferdinandusse said that the investigation was unable to establish that the 'birdie' conversation had actively contributed to the downing of flight MH17. "The investigation revealed that the time between this conversation and the launch of the missile was so short that it was questionable whether the conversation could have contributed to the downing of the aircraft."
Also, and this was something not mentioned by
Ferdinandusse: Bezler's phone call about the downing of a plane was not about MH17. It was about the rebels having hit a Ukrainian military aircraft the day before, on 16 July, near
Enakievo/Yenakieve. The SBU had antedated the audio segment to make it look as
if it was about MH17. And Bellingcat whitewashed this
forgery with a usual
‘highly-likely’ long read suggesting Bezler group didn't down any fighter-jets on the 16th.
So five years after the crash Bellingcat kept promoting the narrative that Bezler played an important role in the downing of MH17. As we now know, the Dutch Prosecutor did not side with this conclusion.
'Oreon' and 'Delfin'
One day after the downing of MH17, on 18 July 2014, SBU published another video with intercepted telephone conversations. In one conversation dated by SBU 14 July – three days before the downing – a man with the call sign ‘Oreon’ is heard boasting: "We already have Buk. We'll be shooting them down to hell."
This person, 'Oreon', can be heard in other intercepted conversations with a person codenamed 'Delfin', published by the Joint Investigation Team (JIM) on 28 September 2016. The conversations between the two men are about the procurement of a crane and trailers, as well as repatriation of certain military equipment across the border. None of them explicitly mentions a ‘Buk’.
Bellingcat tried hard to help JIT with identifying the persons behind the call signs, and finally came up with two names: Oleg Vladimirovich Ivanikov, who they said was Oreon, and Nikolai Fedorovich Tkachev, who they said was Delfin.
These assertions of Bellingcat were widely reported in the western media. Photos of the two men that were published looked like mug shots.
It however seems Bellingcat has not convinced the Dutch Public Prosecutor that Ivanikov is Oreon and Tkachev is Delfin. In his opening statement of the MH17 trial Ferdinandusse referred to these men as Oreon and Delfin. He didn't call them by their 'Bellingcat' names. It furthermore appeared the Prosecution Office had decided that, whoever these persons were, they would not be prosecuted.
"Orion’s conversation of 14 July probably concerned a Buk-TELAR that was brought across the border from the Russian Federation but then caught fire and was rendered useless before it could be deployed," The Public Prosecutor said in his opening statement in the MH17 court case. "Other telephone conversations feature discussions of Buk-systems that were expected but in the end were never delivered."
It is remarkable Bellingcat thought Oreon had a role in downing MH17. It contradicted Bellingcat's and JIT's assumption that the Buk-TELAR that downed MH17 crossed the Russian-DPR border on 17 July. After all, according to SBU, Oreon spoke about the possession of a Buk three days before, on 14 July.
This contradiction was left unnoticed in the mass media. They acted as usual, they promptly reported Bellingcat's findings without fact checking them.
Oreon's interlocutor Delfin isn't standing trial either. Although the Public Prosecutor is convinced Delfin was involved in the removal of the Buk-TELAR that downed MH17 "there is no evidence" Delfin "played a relevant role before and during the commission of the offence," Ferdinandusse declared.
Western media were proven to have formed public opinion on false SBU and Bellingcat charges. But no lessons were learned. Bellingcat recently presented a
report on yet another MH17 suspect. And the mass
media eagerly copy-pasted ’the news’. Again.
For an extensive analysis of SBU's intercepted phone calls and their promotion by Bellingcat:
For an extensive video and audio analysis of SBU's intercepted phone
MH17 Video and Audio Forensic Analysis by Akash Roshen