Wednesday, March 9, 2016

One soldiers VK-album gives more info on the Russian BUKs South of Marinovka

Eshi-Zhalsan Dorzhiev has a VK-photo-album including BUK launchers and many photos geotagged near Kuybyshevo, south of Marinovka.
His album clarifies the situation with these BUKs a bit more.
This of interest because BUKs at that location could have communicated with the BUK south of Snizhne that shot down MH17.

Eshi's entire album is saved, since in general when such things get publicity, they are removed in a couple of days. 
This is the first part of the album:

The first photo appears on Jan 11th 2014 with Eshi driving a truck. It means the photo was uploaded on this date. It must have been taken on or before this date. But we don't know how long before these upload-dates a photo was taken.

On April 2nd photos were uploaded of him with team members in front of BUKs:

This photo is taken on the military base in Vladikavkaz (close to Georgia) like this:

It means the other photos with BUKs are also taken somewhere at that base:

On Eshi's hat it says 222, obviously the number of the BUK he is operating.

Another photo shows some more numbers:

So nr 233-loader (or TEL) and 23x launcher (or TELAR) are in Vladikavkaz too.

On July 6th there is a photo of a military plane on an airport:

The soldiers on the photo are photographed on their back, walking towards the plane. So they are entering the plane for departure and not arriving here. The photo could not be geolocated on any airfield nearby Vladikavkaz though. Most likely it was an earlier photo when Eshi's group departed to go to Vladikavkaz.

On August 1st photos where uploaded showing his regiment: the 67th Anti-aircraft Missile Brigade
from the 58th Army.

Some celebration going on:

And also some photos of Eshi in a train:

These photos must have been taken anywhere after the previous upload and this date. So between July 6th and August 1st. MH17 was taken down on July 17th. So the question is: was he already there on the 17th?

Another photo in the train:

Not likely did he do another journey by train a week later. This must be a photo from the same trip.

On August 6th he also uploaded a photo of him standing in some bush holding his hat full of apricots with a truck and a BUK on the background:

It means he has arrived on the BUK position south of Marinovka. Very likely he was NOT on this location before his previous upload date of August 1st. But it can not completely be ruled out, since he might have had some intensive introduction time at the location before having time to chill out and make photos.

More photos of him between trees:

Barbecuing on the ground:

On Sept 23rd this geotagged photo of a shelter appears in the album:

The geotagged location is here:

Many more photos are there with exactly the same location.

On the dinner table:

A fellow soldier in a truck:

Another photo of the shelter:

This one has enough of the surroundings on it, that verification of the location is possible. The photo has been taken like this:

The opening itself can not be seen in Google Earth but the sand in front of and around it can be seen:

The red arrows indicate the border of this sand.

This group photo was taken on the other side of the treeline:

Like this:

This all means the geotagging was correct and the photos where indeed taken at this location.

This photo shows a camouflaged BUK between the trees:

Indeed Google Earth shows several tracks in and out of the trees along the treeline here.

There are also trenches between the trees:

The dinner table again photographed from the other side:

They had installed a wooden frame next to it, to have some shelter.

More shelters and fortifications:

Another view at the dinner-area, with the barbecue on the front, the wooden frame and table on the background and a line of mugs for brushing teeth probably.

More crew members:

This photo (taken on the south side of the treeline looking West) shows some antenna that can not be seen on Google Earth:

This is not a typical BUK antenna. So it might be possible that this is for communicating with other units and HQ?

16 october 2014
A photo on a bridge overseeing a river:

It is geotagged in Rostov-on-Don:

He must be on his way back again. And he left anywhere between Sept 23rd and Oct 16th.

Nevertheless he still uploads photos from the BUK-location:

He is in the train again:

He uploaded the photo on the 18th and the previous upload was on the 16th, so he must have traveled by train on Oct 17th.

Again also uploading photos from the BUK-location:

On October 29th Eshi uploads photos that are geotagged at the Vladikavkaz-base again:

Based on these geotagged photos and the tracks that can be seen in Google Earth on the Sept 14th image, the entire area that is used for parking vehicles at that position is like this:

Red square = location of geotagged photos
Also tracks leading to/from the camp area can be seen. On the Sept 4th image even a truck can be seen (inset) within the red square.
The total area of operation for the BUKs is much larger than this camp though.

After these 2014 photos Eshi does not upload anything military anymore and before this album he did not have anything military either. He has been uploading these photos from January to October 2014, a period of ten months. He typically is a conscript doing his one-year-time and he has been trained to work an a BUK.

He travelled by train to Rostov-on-Don anywhere between July 6th and August 1st.
He probably arrived at the Kuybyshevo BUK position anywhere between August 1st and August 6th. But it can not completely be ruled out that he might have already been there two weeks earlier.

He most likely has traveled back from Rostov-on-Don to Vladikavkaz by train on October 17th. It means he was 2,5 to 3 months at the Kuybyshevo BUK location.

At this point we can unfortunately not be conclusive about whether Eshi was at this location on July 17th or not.

According to the Bellingcat report MH17 – Potential Suspects and Witnesses from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade BUK 222 was replaced by BUK 3x2 that had downed MH17. 

It seems BUK 222 was at the Vladikavkaz base in the first half of 2014. And it seems Eshi was operating it. This confirms that it's 'normal crew' was doing something else, such as operating BUK 3x2... 
UPDATE: it turns out different brigades can have the same numbers, so the argument about #222 is obsolete.

Other geotagged BUK photos near Kuybyshevo
A much used photo from another VK-album is this one:

By now it is deleted from the album, but it was in an album with a geotagged photo near the Kuybyshevo BUK position. See this article. It was impossible to geolocate it anywhere in that area though.

One photo of Eshi now sheds light on this:

We can see the same or a similar wall. But the background differs significantly. Nevertheless both photos must have been taken at the Vladikavkaz base near Georgia, with one looking south to the mountains and the other looking East where no such high mountains are. Something like this:

But... the BUK has no numbers and had a fresh paint job. Typically something the Russians were doing with anything approaching and/or entering Ukraine. So it is very well possible that this particular BUK had indeed been transported to Kuybyshevo. And that THAT was the reason the owner had geotagged it at that location. 

Another (also deleted) photo from the same person is this one:

That one typically looks like a camouflaged BUK as we have seen in Eshi's photos. And therefore this one DOES seem to have been taken near Kuybyshevo.

Some particular detail on both photos is the wire running along all the boxes, obviously to prevent them from opening:

So far I have never seen this on any other BUK. It's an(other) indication that the BUKs near Kuybyshevo indeed came from the Vladikavkaz base.

Furthermore, the soldier on the left is seen on a group photo from Eshi too:

Another photo that had been geotagged near Kuybyshevo is this one:

Note that the environment EXACTLY fits the Kuybyshevo-position, e.g. tree line, high yellow-brown corn, grass.
The number is visible, but not very clear. It definitely is a BUK loader (TEL). The number might be 232 or 233 on first sight. A high contrast version shows it must be 233, since the third number has a bend at the red arrow, where the number two is more straight:

This is the number of the BUK that Eshi is photographed with in Vladikavkaz:

And that one is a loader indeed.

The BUKs near Kuybyshevo must have come from Vladikavkaz. Exactly when they arrived there, is still unclear. More satellite images might give answer to that question, since the oldest 2014-image in Google Earth at this moment from that region is from Sept 4th 2014.

This doesn't rule out the possibility that prior to the 67th arriving at Kuybyshevo (if that was after the July 17th) a BUK radar from the 53th had been driven to Kuybyshevo to connect with nr 3x2.

UPDATE 9-6-2016
The earlier position at the Vladikavkaz base was not completely correct. With the current correct position, these must have been the BUKs on the photos:

Note that the photos are taken on April 2nd 2014 and the satellite image is taken on April 10th.

On August 9th 2015 these positions are empty:

On Sept 18th 2015 (other?) vehicles are back on these spots:

This is a confirmation that the BUKs near Kuybyshevo came from Vladikavkaz.


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