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Russia faked MH17 images: Report

Russian authorities doctored satellite images it used to try peg the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on Ukraine, an independent report has claimed.

Investigative journalism site Bellingcat claimed Sunday that a Russian Ministry of Defence (MOD) press conference on July 21 of the downing of the Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight on July 17 had presented deliberately misleading information.

Authorities at the time presented satellite images that they claimed showed Ukrainian Buk surface-to-air missile launchers were active and within firing range of the plane on the day it was downed.


Satellite images delivered to the press by Russian Defense Ministry.
Russian Defense Ministry | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Satellite images delivered to the press by Russian Defense Ministry.

Bellingcat's team analyzed image content and soil structures through publicly sourced Google Earth images and concluded that Russia tried to pass June photos as ones from July.

"The Russian Ministry of Defence presented digitally modified and falsely dated satellite images to the international public in order to implicate the Ukrainian army in the downing of MH17," the report said.

Malaysia Airlines' flight MH17 killed at 298 people on board when it crashed near the Russian border near Ukraine on July 17, 2014, two thirds of which were Dutch Nationals.

The Netherlands launched an international probe into the disaster. Reuters reports they are are currently working with Belgian, Ukrainian, Australian and Malaysian officials to help find witnesses who may have seen a rocket launched at the MH17.

Higgins said he's submitted the the 43-page report to police working as part of the joint investigation team.

Nick de Larrinaga, Europe Editor, IHS Jane's Defence Weekly told CNBC that it's "absolutely possible" that Russia doctored their evidence and said Bellingcat's report hardly seems far-fetched.

"Russia's been orchestrating a long-standing, multi level disinformation campaign," he said during a phone interview

"At this point it's pretty much fair to say you can discount what the Russian MOD has said about MH17 as false," de Larringa said.

Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins told CNBC that the falsified images are the final piece of Russian evidence to be debunked from the July 21 press event.

At the time, Russian authorities claimed the plane went off course, which was later disputed by the Dutch Safety Board.

Radar images which appeared to show an aircraft near MH17 at the time of the crash are now widely disputed, de Larringa added. "Even the Russian MOD doesn't maintain that was the case. They now accept that Buk shot down the plane," he said.